With These Few Words, My 3 Year Old Taught Me What Love is.

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I like to hold my son’s hand when we’re driving.

It’s not easy—reaching backwards, driving one handed. But one of the positives to come out of my separation with his mother, is that I find myself really squeezing the juice out of every moment I have with him. So when I’m driving the car and he’s in his seat in the back I may not be able to see him but I can reach back and hold his hand in mine, or mine in his, and feel him.

And he loves it. He never used to be very tactile and is not a particularly affectionate child, but lately he likes holding my hand.

Come to think of it, when I was young I didn’t like holding hands either. Now, I could just hold my son’s hand all day long and not need much else!

Anyway, let’s cut to the chase shall we?

I was driving and holding my boy’s hand and we were chatting and he said something sweet and I said “I love you”.

And he said right back: “I love you too Dadda, but I can’t love you when I’m at the new house with Momma and you’re at the old house.”

And apart from breaking my heart again—which happens all the time lately and I’ve learnt that as much capacity a heart has for love it also has for getting broken, and the real art of life is to balance the two—my son also taught me what love is:

A Verb.

As a therapist, a large part of my work is about guiding people to a deeper love of themselves (raising self-esteem). I do this by healing the trauma that stopped them or blocked them or separated them from their natural state of being—love (including self-love).

But once that’s done, there’s more work to do, because loving yourself requires expression, as does everything in this world.

It’s not enough to heal the trauma of the past (so that you can be present now), it’s also necessary to have a strategy for the future—how do you love yourself?

What will that look like?

What form will it take?

What ‘doings’ will demonstrate and express your love for yourself?

What old habits unravel into ‘not-doings’ because your newfound love no longer accepts them?

When you love yourself, you Love Your Self.

Just like when you love another you hold their hand and you stroke their hair and you wash their dishes and you share their pain without judgment because…because you love them.

And my son understands this better than most. Better than I have done lately.

Love is also a verb.

Do it.

You can start by sharing this post, (smile).

 

Relephant reads:

What Are We Teaching Our Children? 

Children Are Our Teachers.

For Happier Children: Fathers are Needed.

 

 

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Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo: courtesy of the author

 

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anonymous Feb 9, 2016 11:15pm

I get what you’re saying and it’s lovely but are you sure that’s what your son is telling you? Maybe my interpretation is skewed towards my own childhood experience with divorced parents but, your child’s statement seemed like he was telling you he can’t express his love of you around his mother and her new partner; and likewise (if as in my case) he can’t express his love of you while in the presence of his mother.

Perhaps I’m misreading or reading too much of my own experience into your post but, your son’s statement brought me immediately back to the initial days/months/years of my parents’ divorce. Yuck.

I hope he knows he can love you both without hurting either of you.

Best.

W

    anonymous Mar 9, 2016 8:22am

    Hi Wendy, great point. Very often that is exactly the case. His Ma and I have a great relationship now and raise him together, you'll be glad to hear.

anonymous May 5, 2014 3:18pm

I share few words spoken by Mooji on Love ) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fB9d8qLVZL0

anonymous May 5, 2014 2:21pm

My husband (though we are not seperated) does the same with our son. He is not a very publically affectionate person, but having our son has changed that tremendously. I always say, as I am obsessively kissing and snuggling our boy, that a day will come when he doesn’t want me to hug and kiss him until he laughs hysterically. So, I’m milking our sweet time for all it’s worth now. When he grows into a strong and loving man, I hope one day he will find the joy in holding my hand again. Enjoy every moment with your sweet boy.

anonymous May 5, 2014 9:25am

One of my teachers says that "a child is the product of a relationship [that made him/her]". The relationship between the parents informs the child of who he is and what he is made of because at that level of development, he/she is totally dependent on the parents to provide for him/her. Speaking from my own memory, I felt that I was split in two when my parents moved apart and that a part of me was gone when my father disappeared. Obviously, I looked for what was lost in the men my mother would date and in men I dated when I was older, and of course I never found it! On the "up" (?) side, I've seen children of separated parents who are good friends still and the kids do great, so I"m sure, given what I know of you, that you will do well by him. I love your sharing of vulnerability as a parent. Its beautiful. Thank you!

anonymous Jan 28, 2014 2:58am

sooooo true! :*

anonymous Jan 27, 2014 6:40pm

“It’s not enough to heal the trauma of the past (so that you can be present now), it’s also necessary to have a strategy for the future—how do you love yourself?”

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately.. If healing the trauma of the past is enough.. a kind of ‘restore to factory settings’. As you’ve so beautifully pointed out.. It’s not.. it’s a continued lifelong process. My baby is 3 also. And im not always present I have to say. Single parenthood is hard! I do have moments (lots thankfully) where I realise the hugs, kisses and hand holding won’t be on tap anymore soon (she’s super affectionate. I’m not. But she’s teaching me that too) and I try to savour those moments. They’re heaven. Thank you for sharing, and for the reminder.

anonymous Jan 27, 2014 5:16pm

Beautifully said. My son is turning 3 in a week and I was thinking the other day that holding his hand might something I will miss the most when he is all grown. Thank you for sharing.

    anonymous Jan 31, 2014 9:31am

    Don't stop holding his hand! Thanks for commenting 🙂

anonymous Jan 27, 2014 2:43pm

I love that you delight in holding his little hand.
My son awoke that in me as well…

    anonymous May 5, 2014 10:32am

    Yeah, kids huh?! Who knew…

anonymous Jan 27, 2014 10:23am

This was heart warming and melancholy all at once. Insightful and a wonderful way to start my Monday. I enjoy your writing style tremendously, as we seem to share a tone and the creative muse of a child.

    anonymous Jan 27, 2014 12:57pm

    Thanks Tobin. Heart warming and melancholy all at once is pretty awesome and I'll take it!
    Thanks for the comment and I wish you many sweet moments with your munchkin 🙂

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Ben Ralston

Ben Ralston has been practising personal development—necessity being the Mother of invention—since he was about six years old. He’s been teaching and sharing what he’s learnt along the way for a couple of decades. His main thing is Heart of Tribe retreats—whose very purpose is to help you fall back in love with life, no less. Leading these retreats alongside his woman Kara-Leah Grant—also an elephant journal writer (that’s how they met!)—they combine a deep well of lineage-based yoga teaching experience, with expertise in healing trauma and various other methods of personal development. Ben also works with clients one-on-one via Skype, writes, makes videos from time to time, and is passionate about parenting.
He lives in an intentional, tribal community in the hills of Croatia, where you might find him gardening barefoot and talking to the rocks. Connect with Ben on Facebook or YouTube or check out his website for more info.