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Valentine's Day

My 8-year-old son has a girlfriend. Not a girl friend. A girlfriend.

Not that they talk to each other much. Or even make eye contact. I think I can describe their relationship as standing next to each other while simultaneously pretending the other person doesn't exist.

But my son makes things for her. Drawings and cards mostly, where he gushes his love. I know this because he can not spell well and so asks me to write things on the drawings like "You are beautiful" or "Don't tell your annoying little brother that I made this for you." I try not to comment when he hands me a picture with cupids shooting arrows at hearts all over it. Or point out that the hearts don't usually drip blood into big gruesome puddles.

We will be seeing her on Valentine's Day and he has already started preparing. Yesterday he cut out 30 or so hearts out of white paper and colored them red until his pencil was just a nubby stub. He wants to attach them all together with a string so that she can hang them up across her room.

I don't know where he thinks these things up. He is just so incredibly sweet and sensitive. That innocence is something to envy. Throwing yourself out there like that with no reservations is something that adults have lost long ago. I wish I could take it and bottle it up so that I could give it back to him one day. My heart already aches for him and the day that someone will break his heart. I am not sure that I will be able to take it.

When I was in third grade a boy in my class named Paul gave me a present for Valentine's Day. It was a rock that was in an elaborately wrapped box. I am not sure why I was so embarrassed by this token of his affection, but I was. I felt completely mortified standing there out on the playground with a circle of my peers around me. And so I did the only thing that 8-year-old girls can do. I threw the rock at him.

It is amazing how having children makes you relive your own childhood. And remember both the things that happened to you and those you did to others. I wonder if Paul still remembers that day. I wonder if he went home and cried to his mother. I wonder if she wanted to come to the school and slap me silly. I wonder if it broke her heart more than his.

I suppose one of these days I will find out.

And as I wrote Happy Valentine's Day on yet another heart, I resisted writing underneath: Hurt my son and I'll hurt you.


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