As I hope most parents do we tell our sons that we love them every single day – often multiple times a day – and by now (almost 6 years as a family) we are pretty sure that they understand it and believe it.
However in the early days we were not so sure and reasoning that ‘feeling loved’ was an important part of getting them to bond and hopefully attach we devised a little ritual and instead of saying ‘ I love you?’ we sometimes ask ‘Who loves you?’
Initially neither of them instinctively knew how to respond and we would help: ‘I love you, your other daddy loves you, your brother loves you, your sister loves you, Grandad loves you and so on. Bringing in family from their past, foster parents, close new family members and even some of our more involved friends made the list long and we hoped powerful.
Very soon they didn’t need our help and would recite their list eagerly, it was usually the same people, but every now and then there would be a surprise that we would have to question – the caretaker at school and the guy in the corner shop being two that spring to mind.
As time went on and as they grew and had a better sense of what they thought love really was, the list became more thoughtful and more honed and was usually the same people – with no surprises.
Our youngest is now 10 and I had not asked him for a little while, but when I did last week his list was indeed a surprise.
I am pleased to say that his two dads were first and foremost, but we were followed by S the dog, Cat the cat, Grandad and Aunty J – and that was all.
The surprise is that apart from me and my partner, the rest have all passed away since he has been with us. They had all been on his list with regularity, but had ceased to be regulars after they died.
We had an occasional ‘Grandad from heaven’ or Cat from pet heaven for a while following their deaths, but that had simply faded away.
So why this list and why at this time and most curious of all – why only these names?
I can hazard a guess and say that I caught him at a moment when the loss of these ‘loved ones’ and possibly the reality of death was strongly on his mind, but knowing all the loss he has suffered in his life I somehow think it was deeper than that.
We will bring it up at some point and see if he can express any feelings and enlighten us a little, but we doubt that he will be able to.
So as with many things that our sons surprise us we, we will just ‘let it lie’ and will keep watching for clues that might let us into his head and give us a little better understanding of his wonderful and oh so curious mind.