With head shaking clarity, I remember the questions my children would ask me as toddlers.
"Why do we have to go to the grocery store?"
"Because we need food to eat."
"Because we need to eat to grow and be healthy."
"Because if we don't eat and grow, we become unhealthy."
And the 'why's?" went on and on and on. Or so it seemed. The questions have gotten more complex as the years have marched on and the 'whys' have become more detailed, accompanied with opinions. During toddler days, I longed for the time when I could really talk with my little people. Well my little people are on the cusp of adolescence and we are, in fact, really talking. And while I'm not cringing at the whys, I'm surely thinking about my answers more carefully because they are paying a LOT of attention to what I have to say.
At dinner last week I sat with my two kids, sans hubs and we noshed over homemade pizza and caesar salad. Don't ask me how or why my youngest started talking about love. But he did. And the questions began....."Mom, how many boyfriends have you had? Were you ever in love before Dad?"
OH COME ON. I pride myself on being so open with my kids. You ask, you'll get. I have one that is an information glutton, and one that only wants to hear the very important facts and that's it. So, I breathe in. And out. And again. And I regroup and ask back "Well, it depends on what you mean by boyfriend. Are we talking about dates or about longer relationships?"
"Hmm. Okay. Well, I went on lots of dates, which was a lot of fun. I had a high school boyfriend. And a college boyfriend, and then one after that. Then I dated a lot. Then I met Dad. And yes, I've been in love before your Dad," Me.
"REALLY? Mom, you were a player!!!" Child.
"WAIT. No. A player is someone who dates lots of people at the same time. I didn't do that," Me.
"Okay, but how many of those boys did you love?" Child.
In the name of all that's holy, I really didn't think these conversations, these "real talks" with my children would happen so quickly, or be so personal. Those who know me know I love to talk. I do. It's a blessing and a curse. And here I sat with my lovelies, asking about me, me before them, before their Dad. Me, who they never knew. So I dove in carefully. Honestly. Shamelessly. And nervously.
I told them I loved all three of my 'serious' boyfriends as they looked at me wide eyed. I told them, looking back, high school love is so different than college love, or post college love. So, was it love? It was then, but it seems a bit silly to me now, it seemed silly to me when I was in my 20s. But it was real when it was happening. And college? Oh college and dorms, and frat parties and late nights studying and thoughts of the future.... That was a different love, a stronger love and a really fun love. And after college? Real life love but young love? All encompassing possibility love? It was great and powerful, laced again with hope and innocence.
"How can you love someone and then not anymore?" child asked.
"That's such a good question," I answered. I struggle with this myself sometimes. When you spend years with a person and love them deeply, does that emotion ever fully leave you? I think the intensity leaves, and the memories of faded love always linger. And I think that's great. It gives us strength and perspective and moments of joy and sadness that shape us.
I explained to my kiddos that sometimes, people grow apart in love, and not together. And when you're smart, you know when it's time to say goodbye and hopefully, it's on good terms with your other half.
"So did you get dumped, or did you do the dumping?" Quiet child.
"I dumped and I've been dumped. And before you ask, yes, I cried when I was the breaker upper and when I was broken up with."
They looked at me and giggled and of course wanted to know the who, what and when of each break up, before I was saved by the ringing telephone. On the other end, my truest love, their Dad. After hanging up the phone, I told them both that yes, I loved their Dad the most and that I'm a lucky person to have loved and lost and to have found someone so special, real and lasting and I never doubt that this love, will not end.
Both sets of big brown eyes seemed to relax and smile. They were done with me then, wanting to go off and watch American Ninja Warrior and talk about the latest YouTube videos they're watching. Proud of myself for answering their questions honestly, while hoping I introduced them to who I was before I became Mom, I lingered in my kitchen, clearing the dinner dishes, reflecting on my very lucky life, the wonderful boys I've loved and the one boy that loves me because of it all.