By Gregory Keer
I can spend a lot of my days calibrating my parenting machinery in the belief that I can become a more effective father, yet it all comes down to the fact that I feel love for my kids and they know that I love them (yes, I made them swear under oath that this is true). While I appreciate the complexity of life and the pursuit of good child care in particular, parenting can be summed up in lessons of love that we teach by modeling it with our partners and other fellow humans and explaining its nuances to our children.
Still, kids don’t just learn love from us. They get schooled about it by the world around them, from their friends to the media. As they grow, they view matters of the heart differently as they become more or less open, imaginative, and guarded (usually a combination of these things).
For this Valentine month, I interviewed a small sample of boys and girls, ranging from two years old to 12, and including my own emotionally philosophizing kids. While we talked, it became apparent that they were most interested in talking about romance, which is of course the foundation for all the love that follows in a family. As such, the three questions that made the cut here are ones that ask the kids to describe what love is and what a person does with it.
What is love?
Anika (3): Family.
Eve (5): Love means when you love somebody. That means you care about somebody and share.
Arielle (5): When you love somebody and you feel they love you, and your heart loves somebody.
Ari (6): Love is being together.
Ashton (7): Love is when you’re kind.
Hannah (8): Love is caring. Not being mad at everything. Love is kissing and hugging and doing nice things.
Jacob (9): Your heart gets taken by the person you are in love with. My friends and family. A force from the universe that creates people’s hearts to be taken by someone else.
Zander (9): Friendship, family, and a few other things.
Benjamin (12): I don’t want to answer this.
Jasmine (12): Love is when you’re with the one special person, you can’t see anyone else in the room. Love is the warm feeling you get in your heart.
Sarah Rose (12): It’s when you really care about someone.
What happens to you when you fall in love?
Eve (5): You feel like someone is falling in love with you. That feels like somebody is hugging. And somebody is caring and caring. They put their hearts together to be nice to each other.
Arielle (5): They kiss and get married. They love each other. They can’t stop kissing.
Ashton (7): You marry.
Hannah (8): I don’t know, I’ve never fallen in love.
Zander (9): Some people get married.
Jacob (9): Some people smooch.
Benjamin (12): This is a really odd question.
Jasmine (12): You want to spend every waking moment with the love of your life.
Sarah Rose (12): You get happier and you treat people nicer.
What do people in love do?
Anika (3): When you love someone, you want little kids and little girls.
Eve (5): They hug and they kiss. They marry when they’re boyfriend and girlfriend.
Arielle (5): They kiss.
Ari (6): They do everything together. Ask me more stuff about love!
Ashton (7): Kiss.
Hannah (8): They kiss and hug and give gifts. They go on dates.
Jacob (9): They play with each other. They are passionate with each other. They don’t show it because they’re too embarrassed to show it because they don’t think the other person will love them back.
Zander (9): They go around with each other. Friends that play together.
Benjamin (12): It’s a really stupid question.
Jasmine (12): Wanting to hold their partner close and love them more than anyone else does.
Sarah Rose (12): They hug and kiss, go see movies and eat popcorn together. And they bake cakes together.
If we go by my limited research, love is about baking cakes, hoping to be loved back, being friends, getting married, and being so happy you’re nicer to everyone else. Frankly, I can’t imagine that a survey of adults would come up with more insightful responses.
Here’s to love and all that we have to teach our children — and all they have to teach us — about it.