“Oooh-ooh-ooohh love hurts…” that fantastic line of that less fantastic song is sung in our household daily (sorry, Nazareth).
Once, this song spoke to me of the heartache of love lost and the dashed dreams of the young and tenderhearted.
Now, as parents, the lyrics surpass metaphors and land on a far more visceral truth; love ACTUALLY hurts, and we now sing this in an attempt at humor after getting injured in the line of parental duty. A fat lip or a hearty case of crushed nuts, head-butts and other collisions, wipe-outs and painfully sore muscles… I could go on, having recently given birth to my third child, but I have a tendency to over-share, and it’s just not that kind of article. It sounds like a Jerry Springer show or perhaps a hockey skirmish, but around here we call it “full combat love”.
We trip through the day clinging desperately to the idea of finishing one single adult sentence, so distracted that the Lego which has imprinted on my foot is but a tiny blip on the radar. The 3-year-old exudes hurricane force energy into everything she does; love is no exception. The primary recipient of her affection is our 6 –month-old puppy; “But Moooooom, I need to love her!”…wham, yelp, squeal, growl… “Gentle! Be more gentle. BE MORE GENTLE!!!!”
The irony is not lost on me as I plea for peaceful interactions through clenched teeth with a troll voice and bulging veins that predict the inevitable conniption I am about to have.
Enter night time: Earrings out. Pillow barricades strategically placed. I crack my knuckles, roll my shoulders and mentally prepare for battle (I mean bed). Once considered a safe haven, our king size bed is no longer for us to sprawl out or hide in. Jabbing elbows and knees keep us from a restful sleep while their father and I hug the outside corners of the bed; I fall asleep dreaming of an invention similar to a plastic bubble and make a mental note to purchase protective padding, helmets, and an “athletic supporter” for my darling husband.
Of course sometimes the danger is less imminent: “Hey mom, check it out! She thinks my finger is your BOOB.” I turn to see my 6-year-old’s unwashed thumb jammed in my newborn daughter’s mouth, and both parties are completely satisfied with this arrangement.
I waste my breath for a minute or two discussing the importance of hand-washing and protecting this tiny creature from germs before I realize that in their eyes I am just a droning voice in the background interfering in a precious moment between siblings. My idea of a precious moment has developed quite a bit since bringing home our first new bundle of joy.
As I watch what unfolds in a typical exchange between my two older children, the baby and the dogs, it strikes me how they love fully and combatively by nature. Years of socialization have made us, the grown-ups, defensive and overly protective, harboring the notion that we can avoid getting hurt.
We can only be open to this kind of brutal affection when we allow ourselves to be vulnerable; there are so many qualities of youth that many of us spend our adulthood trying to recapture. Kids are comfortable assaulting us with love, not worried about doing the wrong thing. Man, do I wish I could bottle that, feed it to them forever and take a healthy dose of it myself.
Why do I think this is so awesome? My description is no doubt received as a cautionary tale or literary birth control, but I LOVE it. I would imagine that parenthood without pain feels much like a limp handshake or one of those hugs someone gives you where there is still enough room between you to fit a whole extra person. An insincere formality that leaves no one fully satisfied but everyone slightly uncomfortable.
No, thank you. I’ll take the bear hug, a greeting that knocks the wind out of me and a fat lip from an overly aggressive preschooler’s attempt at a kiss hello.