you and me together, fighting for our love
He wasn't upset when he said it - there was no flailing of limbs, no vale of tears. He just sat there in his car seat and calmly, reasonably informed me of the fact. Granted, I had just removed him, without his consent, from the small mountain of toys and new step-bro he has at his mother's house... but still.
Changing lanes here, I have to confess that I have been watching a vulgar, rather filthy TV show on Hulu. It's called Louie. It is "intended only for mature audiences," so before watching, I have to type in a password and confirm that I know I'm a dirty pig. I do it anyway.
I do it because (in addition to the fact that it's flippin' hilarious) in the very first episode I watched, Louie CK (creator, producer, writer and titular character) is talking with his six-year-old daughter, and she informs him that she loves mommy more than him, because the food is better at her house. Now, I am a passable cook, so I don't worry too much about losing my son's affections to a more appealing meal plan. But the principal of the thing is the same, and Louie's oddly-paced, critically-acclaimed comedy struck an authentic note - as did his response to his daughter, which was to wait until she turned away and then tell her he loved her while flipping the birdie at her retreating back.
I did not flip my son off. Instead, I stifled the rush of emotions and told him the truth - that I loved him very much, even when he didn't love me back. And then I tightened my grip on the wheel and kept driving, proud as all get-out of my extreme display of righteousness in the face of adversity. It wasn't, though (righteousness, that is), because his comment was just one statement out of many.
I know that he was just doing as kids do. I know there have been times when he's been with his mother and has told her he'd prefer to be with me (usually, of course, when he's not getting exactly what he wants). And although there is always a little fresh pain when those sorts of comments are addressed to me, it is not so great that it can't be balmed by his subsequent, un-solicited assurances that he loves me.
It made me wonder, though, if I could be so calm and kind if I didn't know that kids are kids, or if I hadn't the regular assurances of his love to bolster me up. If I've said it twice, I've said it two times: I'm not a particularly fabulous guy. It seems that every time I become convinced of how awesome and loving I am, something else comes along to remind me that it is fear and insecurity - not grace and love - that tend to drive my actions.
It's tempting, in those moments, to spiral downward into despair and self-loathing. Sometimes, I do. Other times, though, I remember that grace and love come in tiny, moment-sized packages. I remember that a loving life is lived right now, not in some imaginary, impossible ideal uber-package.
So even if I'm scared, and even if it's tempting, at times, to see myself as being in some sort of love-competition, I do know that love doesn't work that way, and that making tiny choices against fear and insecurity erodes them, inexorably, to the nothing that they really are.