My 5 year old and I were riding around buying gifts for a birthday party for one of her classmates when Gotye’s “Somebody that I Used to Know”, my current anthem, comes on the radio. Here is the amazing video: http://youtu.be/8UVNT4wvIGY. We are riding around singing the song when it begins to fade out and she breaks our choral rejoicing with a very interesting point...
5yo: Mom, you know, if your heart freezes you die. Your blood can’t circulate around your body.
Me: Yes. If your blood freezes so does your body... Wait, are you talking about the song?
5yo: Yes mom. Mom, I’m talking about in the song. If your heart freezes then you die.
Me: Well, in the song it refers to what happens when you fall out of love. Most often when you fall in love and that person hurts you, your heart “turns cold” (I use air quotations here). So your heart does not really freeze but that person makes you cold to love. No longer willing to take risks and share your love and warm and meaningful affections with another person.
There is no topic that is too taboo or mature for us to discuss, so we continued...
5yo: So you hate that person then.
Me: It depends. I mean, it depends on the individual’s response. Hate is a very strong word. It’s also a word that is misused and not real. Love, the way we use it, isn’t real either.
5yo: So mom, is your heart cold? Do you hate dad? Or you don’t?
Me: Yes, my heart is cold.
5yo: Is it cold to everyone? Is it cold to us? Do you hate me and my sisters?
Me: No. There are different types of what we call “love”. I love you and your sisters no matter what. I will always love you. There will be nothing you can do to stop my "love" for you. So don’t ever think you have to hide anything because you think I won’t love you. Now, my heart is cold... but not to you. And, I don’t hate your father. I don’t like being around him. I don’t like interacting with him. I think I definitely would not take a risk to care about another person because of what happened between us. I don’t hate him though. I don’t hate anyone. And honestly I don’t think we can hate anyone. Hate is your visceral response to an action taken by another person. So when you say you “hate” something, you actually are saying you can’t stand something that they’ve done to you.
5yo: So you’re saying that you can’t hate a person?
Me: Yes, I think that you say you hate the person, but actually, you just REALLY REALLLLLY REAALLY can’t tolerate what that person did to make you feel uncomfortable, hurt, disrespected, abused or misused. It’s hard to hate an object or a being. But you can hate actions. It doesn’t make sense to hate an object. It’s like if I said, I hate spaghetti… what does that even mean? I am really saying I strongly object to the flavor of spaghetti. Or I strongly object to the way my body reacts to eating spaghetti. I can’t necessarily “hate” spaghetti.
5yo: Does the same go for people?
Me: Yes. We say we hate someone because we equate their actions with who they are. People become what they do. But it doesn’t make sense to hate a person. You didn’t create them so honestly you can’t hate them. Just like with love. I can say I love you because I helped make you. I love myself. I am not sure if we can say that we LOVE another person because we did not make that person. There was no work that went into putting them together. So we can LOVE how they make us feel. We can LOVE how they act. We can admire their personality and their accomplishments. We can enjoy their company. We can appreciate their outlook on life. As far as actually “loving” a person. That is an action. People are objects. We can only ascribe an action to an action.
5yo: So when I say I love my sisters, I appreciate their company and their sharing with me more than just saying I “love” them. And we can’t hate. We just don’t like what people do to us?
Me: Yes. Love is essentially all of the actions about a person that they’ve done, that I selfishly enjoy about them. As a parent, I can actually believe that I LOVE you because you are part of me. Which is once again selfish because I love myself. Life is action, my dear. We value actions. If I didn’t get up and make breakfast you’d starve. Just like you need food, you need appreciation, enjoyment and respect from others. When people promise these things and then renig or violate your trust, you then develop detestable feelings toward this person because actions are risks. Because most of us don't want to complicate our lives or think deeper into our actions, we use words like "love" and "hate" to describe a feeling or situation... Anyway, mommy is getting carried away. I love you. I love what you do. I love the actions you take that are uplifting and I enjoy when you try to improve those actions that are not uplifting.
5yo: Mommy… I know. I love you too.
I'm a former teacher and former college athlete, currently working in edtech. My mission is to get parents to partner with their child's teacher.