Sam is in love.
Miss Asia is about 18, tall, with beautiful long, black hair. She is a new teacher at his preschool and she is not even his teacher, but that didn’t stop him from picking her as the one. All it took was one afternoon of playing with spray water bottles on the playground and he was smitten.
“I love you and Miss Asia,” he told me that afternoon, with a special emphasis on the “and.” He later told me that he thought Miss Asia was as pretty as I am. Then a few days later we had to make a card for Miss Asia. Sam picked out a piece of white paper and a red pen and stood next to me as he dictated. “Miss Asia, I love you so very much. You are beautiful. I love you so, so much. Love, Sam.”
Confession time: I did not write those exact words on the card. As soon as he said them they felt so raw and honest and… I am not even sure what. It wasn’t jealousy that made me write “I love playing with you on the playground” instead of “I love you so very much,” but some kind of a protective instinct that wanted him to guard his feelings and not put everything on the table.
I feel foolish about this now, but at the moment it felt like the right thing to do. And then I wondered: at what point in life do we lose the ability to put our feelings out there so purely and so honestly? Is it after the first heartbreak? Or is it earlier? Is it somehow learned, ingrained in us like good manners? I want Sam to feel overpowering love and passion, just the way he feels it now. And I want him to be able to express it freely and without reservation, like it is the most natural thing on earth. Because it is.
But I don’t want him to get hurt or be made fun of by anyone. Somehow we all learn to be “smart” about love — about who calls whom first, who makes the first move, when and how it’s safe to say “I love you” for the first time. It seems like there are so many rules about dating and love. Rules that in the end don’t really protect us from disappointment or heartbreak.
So maybe the five-year-old is right when he puts all of his cards on the table and allows himself to be swept up by this great, big, mysterious thing.
I should learn from him.