Monday, March 25, 2013

Love Is Worth Any Risk

(I've changed some of the names because, in love, we are all innocent.)

And I see losing love
Is like a window in your heart
Everybody sees you're blown apart.
Everybody sees the wind blow     ~Paul Simon

A broken heart hurts like nothing else. No matter how gently she does it, no matter how much your head tells you it's for the best, no matter how many friends you have around you telling you she isn't good enough for you, only time has any capacity to sooth. And even then, even decades later, if you don't guard against it, a sound, a scent, a certain play of light at the end of the day can bring the heart sickness back, tinged now with the melancholy of what might have been. Other kinds of rejection can heal without a mark, but this leaves a scar.

A part of teaching a 5's class that I'd not anticipated was the advent of what I'm thinking of as "romantic" play, especially since, like most fives classes of which I'm aware, our enrollment tends to be boy heavy. It first came to my attention around Valentine's Day. By a fluke of the way illness spreads, we celebrated this year with all of the girls (and some of the boys as well, of course) out sick. At circle time, we were talking about love, and I asked the question, "Who do you love?" It started off as usual, with the boys answering, "I love mommy," "I love my daddy," "I love my whole family," that sort of thing, but then Grey raised his hand and said, "I love Elena," a classmate with whom he often carpools. This barrier broken, we went another round, with each of the boys, perhaps emboldened by their absence, declaring love for one or another of the girls. It was a wonderfully sweet circle time.

It was around this time that Jeff and Mary decided to get married. They spent a lot of time holding hands, looking, frankly, flushed with the excitement of playing together. This went on for several weeks, going to the point of the two having play dates together outside of school. It was even the topic of discussion at a parent meeting, during which we all chuckled and basked in the innocent warmth of what people used to call "puppy love."

Last week, however, we were making tissue paper flowers at the art table. Jeff, Mary, and a few other kids were taking turns riding a scooter when Henry ran up to give Mary the flower he had made. One thing led to another and minutes later the two were holding hands declaring that they were going to be married. Jeff's eyes widened, then he made a beeline for the art table. He returned with a flower-gift of his own, Mary accepted it, but continued to hold Henry's hand. Jeff went back to the art table.

The kids moved on to other things in the meantime, but it wasn't long before Jeff found me again. He threw himself up against the wall in dejection, his face twisted with the effort to hold back his tears. I said, knowing the answer because we've all been there, "You look upset." The words and tears flowed together, "She's going to marry Henry. He only gave her one flower and I gave her five!" With that he raced across the room and crawled under a table. I tried to console him, rubbing his back, telling him I understood. I couldn't use the "she's not good enough for you line," of course, and without that and the other things guys tell each other I was at a total loss. I didn't feel at all like a teacher in that moment or even an adult. I was just a buddy helping a buddy because no one's a greater expert than anyone else when it comes to heartbreak. It hurts as bad at 5 as it does at 50.

He burst out from under the table and ran. I followed to find him balled up under where we hang our coats. By then, I'd stopped saying anything, just being with him, gently chasing the other kids away who were, naturally, wondering what had happened. Time passed and he pulled himself together. We decided to play with the Lincoln Logs. He lashed out again by knocking down the constructions of a couple classmates. They said, "Hey!" but I let it go without comment. He and I made a series of cannons and blasted stuff for awhile.

When we chuckled in our parent meeting, I doubt any of us were thinking about the heartbreak. I sure wasn't, although, we should have all known it was coming. But even if we did, even if we'd allowed ourselves to consider it, it would have been wrong to have done anything other than to let love run its course.

Given how much it hurts, it's amazing we ever allow ourselves to love again, but we do, some of us over and over. That's because love is worth any risk, even the risk of heartbreak.

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Anonymous said...

That is just so beautiful and touching, Teacher Tom

Unknown said...

Your post reminded me of my talk about Valentine's day with my class of 3-5's. That day I had a boy heavy class and the comments they made about it were quite wonderful and entertaining. One boy even went so far as to tell me that "real men don't do that love day, its all for the girls." I then started to talk about ways we could express and show love and another boy declared that "I could get mummy to buy me an ice cream and then give it to her". I said to him that he could do that but what could he do instead that didn't involve mummy buying something. Strangely his response to me was "well mummy doesn't like ice cream so I would get to eat it." It was a total win/win situation for him and I could see his mind ticking over on what else he could convince his mum to buy.

The best wedding though that I have ever been to in my classroom involved twin girls who decided to marry their best friend (another girl) that is progressive! It was a wonderful affair, flowers, seats all arranged, long flowing pieces of silk and gauze dresses, flower veils and a tea party to end it all. Mind you, this year I have the twins still but their best friend moved on to school due to how my ages run in my class. The twins still often sigh and comment how they miss her. Your post about how children feel when losing their first love really reminded me that children also feel that great sense of heartbreak when a best friend moves on and they are left behind.