My son is an extremely perceptive kid, especially when it comes to emotions. Sometimes I think he must be an old, old soul. So it shouldn't really surprise me anymore when he asks complicated questions, and asks them much sooner than I'm prepared to answer them. A few hours ago we were sitting in the living room floor, sorting Legos according to shape and size. (We've learned via trial and error that it really does no good to sort them by color, but that's a whole other story.) Eliot was singing a song that had been on the radio the last time we were in the car: "The day I first met you, you told me you'd never fall in love..." He stopped abruptly and looked up at me. "Mom, does everybody fall in love?" he asked.
"Weeeellll...that's a tough one. I guess I'd say...yes? Probably everybody falls in love." I'm looking at him with a questioning face, wondering where this came from and where it's about to go...and he follows up with, "Did you ever fall in love?"
"Oh, honey. Sweet baby child," I'm thinking. But I carefully say, "Well, yes. I fell in love with James."
And Eliot replies, "Okay, but what about my dad? You were married to him, right? So did you fall in love with him?"
Great. Awesome. We're going there.
Again, I have to take a moment to choose my words carefully. I'm thinking I want to sneak into the kitchen and scoop my eyeballs out with a spork, but instead I sit right where I am, on the carpet, shifting through little pieces of plastic, and I say, "Yes, I fell in love with your dad. But that was a long time ago, when we were both really young."
"Before I was born, right?"
"Yes, it was before you were born."
"And you used to live together?"
Now I'm thinking, "Dude. You're five. Can't we just play Legos?!" Instead, I say, "Yes, we lived together before you were born, and for a while after you were born, but then there came a time when we decided it would be better if we weren't married anymore." (Mental note: pat myself on the back later for being sooooo diplomatic with this explanation.)
"And now my dad is married to H_____, right?"
"Yes, he is."
"I guess because he fell in love with H_____."
Eliot takes a minute to think about this. He thoughtfully fingers a set of plastic Lego leaves and then puts them into a compartment of one of the fishing tackle boxes we're using to house these myriad pieces.
I want to say, "Kid, don't look at me. I don't have ANY answers for ya." But I just sit there quietly among the wreck, plucking and sorting.
I wish I had some words of wisdom for him. I wish I could explain to him how people fall in and out of love, how it works, how we survive by picking up and moving on and falling in love again and again, even when we don't want to. But I can't, because I don't have any better idea than he does. I don't know how any of this works either.
He tells me he wishes we still lived together, his dad and I, and I laugh. "Oh no you don't, Bubba! Trust me! Besides, if we did, you wouldn't have H_____ and your brother! You love them! You'd miss them so much if they weren't in your life."
He says, "Well, yeah, I do love them, but..."
"But, what, sweetie? Everything is the way it's supposed to be."
After a few more quiet minutes, Eliot asks, "Do you ever miss my dad?" and I say, "Sure, sometimes."
He says, "Doesn't it make you sad?"
And I say, "Sometimes it does. And sometimes it doesn't at all." I smile at him. "I'm pretty happy with the way everything is right now."
He smiles back. I hug him, and ruffle his hair.
"Keep sortin', kid," I say, "We're just about to get there. I can feel it."