My youngest kid has a new habit. He’s taken to talking to people randomly – oh okay, that’s not news. The kid is only three, he’s already declared his undying affection for Susie Finkbeiner (actually he wants to marry her. Pity she’s already taken. Pity also that, if he did, all his new step-children would be older than he is. And he’s never met her. And he thinks she lives on a cloud because I’m going to visit her on an aeroplane). He also once threw a tantrum because I wouldn’t let him invite a middle-aged American novelist to his birthday party (“but MUMMY, she’s my FRIEND!”) so I’m fairly used to chatting with strangers because of him. However, he’s started a new twist on the whole everyone-is-my-friend thing: he’s started declaring his love for people publicly.
It’s very cute. He’s an adorable little fella and I think he knows it already, and he fixes you with those blue eyes and gazes up at you and his eyes crinkle up and he says “I love you Mummy!” and he means it. You can’t help but melt a little, and I think he feels that, truly feels the love that emanates in those moments. I think that’s why, the feeling of that love, that he keeps doing it. He does it to me, he does it to Daddy, he does it to Grandma and to Gran, and probably to his day carer as well. The day he said it to our next door neighbour was a bit weirder. Yes, we love her too, she’s a lovely lady and a great neighbour but we don’t go round…you know…talking about it.
But she melted when this little blond boy from over the fence squeezed her round the legs and said “I love you Aussie” (yeah her name’s Aussie. Because. No, not Ozzie, although she does have dark hair and is about the right age. As far as I know she doesn’t eat bats). She melted. Everybody does.
It made me think a lot about our culture. Australians, for the most part, are a stoic bunch. I know that this isn’t universal, that there are cultures where people profess their love for one another with alarming regularity, and cultures where men walk arm in arm along the road just because they’re friends, but we’re not like that. We’re “educated”, mores the pity. We’re taught to keep our feelings in, and sometimes – even worse – we’re taught that withholding love is an appropriate response to not liking someone’s behaviour, we’re taught that withholding love is okay unless we’re truly emotionally connected, or unless they treat us in exactly the right way.
My youngest is a smart kid. I want him to get a great education. But I want to completely UNeducate him in all of these things. He’s got it right already. There aren’t that many commandments in the second half of the Bible. On the whole it’s the same one repeated in endless ways: Love people. Love people. Love people. Love people. Not because we feel it about them. Not because they once gave us a favourite CD or an awesome pair of shoes. Not “because” anything. Just because.
Challenging, isn’t it? Here’s another challenge for you today: go tell someone you love them. Go on. My kid can. I dare you!