Sunday, September 7, 2008

Hearts Were Made to be Broken

People say that having kids makes you young again. That's pretty much true. You giggle madly with them at the most ridiculous stuff. You lay down on the sidewalk to get a good view of ants soldiering back and forth with their bits of food. You sing "This Old Man" and ABCs with gusto. You eat hot dogs and mac 'n cheese for dinner. You have tea parties and bake Lego bread in shoebox ovens and count it up as rollicking good fun. When your kid is having fun you have fun, too.

The flip side is when your 3-year-old gets her heart broken, yours breaks twice as hard: once for her and once for the 3-year-old you who has had her heart broken multiple times in the very same way over the past 36 years.

Bug loves her friends. I don't know if all kids latch on to their playmates like she does. My theory is that she's so shy with everyone that once she feels comfortable with someone, especially a kid, she just can't hide her glee at being around them. She wraps them with hugs, guffaws long and loud at their jokes and glows like a sunbeam when they enter a room.

As shy and reserved as Bug is, her friend Ria is outgoing. She chats up people in the park, pets strange dogs on the playground and blows kisses to everyone in the restaurant. Bug LOVES her and together they have the energy of a dozen toddler-sized hurricanes. They play wonderfully together. They share and take turns and make each other laugh. All the stuff that good 3-year-old pals are supposed to do.

Last weekend, we met up with Ria and her family for a festival. The two girls hit it off as usual and had a grand time, marching in a parade together and sharing milkshakes from Starbucks. By the end of lunch, everyone was tired and ready for naps. Ria was pouty and ignoring everyone, including Bug who wanted to share a few more laughs. We chalked it up to the heat and general toddler temperament.

After naps, we went to Ria's house for a party. Bug was so excited to be at Ria's house! For a party! With cake! And Ria! She barreled in and started peppering Ria with questions and news and proposals about games to play. Ria flatly ignored her and went to work on a craft project. Bug figured that's just what they were doing now and got to work, too. She kept up with it long after Ria abandoned her project to join other kids in the playroom. Bug couldn't bring herself to go in there, choosing to stick close to Grinch, Dos and me. While the party crew hooted it up in front of the TV in the other room, we ate alone in a quiet corner of the living room.

Bug pushed aside her fears and walked into the crowd to have cake with her friend. Ria walked away after a few minutes, leaving her cake and Bug behind. Everything Bug did to engage her friend was ignored or refused. By the time we left, Ria was in the middle of a crowd of kids, tearing into a pile of her brother's birthday presents. Bug was in Ria's bedroom with Grinch, quietly giving a gentle checkup to a pink hobby horse. I don't even know if it really registered with Bug that her friend had ditched her. Grinch and I saw the whole thing though, and it hurt as much as if we had been ditched. It hurt worse, I think.

I know Ria wasn't being mean. She was just tired and overwhelmed with all that was going on. The protective mother in me wanted to pull her aside and say, "Be nice to her! She's your friend! She's just a little girl!" But Ria is a little girl, too and the next time we see her, she and Bug likely will be back to their old tricks, giggling and hugging the way they always do.

I want so much to give my girls a full life, to let them see the world and experience all it has to offer. I want to protect them too, to keep them safe from harm and heartache. I know they'll fall and scrape knees, maybe even break a bone one day. That's what comes with adventure. Their hearts will get bruised and broken, too. I just wish it didn't hurt worse than a broken arm.


Eli said...

That was a beautiful post.

I think the people you truly care about are an extension of yourself.

ingrid said...

this is so beautiful heather.

Heather said...

Ingrid, thank you!
Eli, I've heard that but never really felt it until I had children. It's a wonderful feeling to share their joy and it hurts just as much to share their pain.