Heart on a Wall

To all the parents out there, a question. Does it sometimes feel like your kids have your heart pinned up on a wall? Just stuck up there. Way up high where you can’t reach it without standing on the couch or reaching for it with a broom or something.

You know what I mean?

It seems like half the time, when they’re crying theatrically about socks or fighting each other over a broken piece of plastic or waking up four times a night, you’re not really one hundred percent convinced that you even like them all that much. And then, the other half of the time (maybe more, maybe less depending on the day), how much they mean to you can just be overwhelming. It can hit you like a sudden gust of wind that kicks up out of nowhere.

Like when you’re riding in the car and your 4-year-old points out a cloud in the sky that he says looks like a turtle. And then he decides that no, it looks more like a robot car. But then again, no, it actually does look like a turtle, but the turtle went back into its shell.

You listen to him talking it through and you think, damn, this is just too much. Here I am, driving, carefully parsing Kanye West tweets in my head searching for hidden meanings and suddenly I get to hear a little person I played a part in creating testing the limits of his growing imagination. And stuff like this happens every day, even if you are sometimes too tired or too frustrated to notice.

And then on more rare occasions, it can all just slap you in the face with the sheer power of literalness.

4 y.o.: “Daddy, daddy! I’ve got something to show you. Come sit down at school.”

(I sit down on the couch, he stands on another part of the couch by the wall.)

Me: “OK, I’m ready.”

4 y.o.: “Look at this.”

(He uses a silver towel bar as a pointer to direct my attention to a paper heart taped high up on the wall. The paper heart has been colored haphazardly with crayon. The towel bar has been circulating around our house for months at least. It seems to be moving around from room to room on its own volition.)

Me: “Oh wow. That’s really something.”

4 y.o.: “What does it remind you of?”

Me: “Hmm…I don’t know. A heart?”

4 y.o.: “No. Think about it.”

Me: ….

4 y.o.: “Think…think. I’ll give you a hint: It starts with the number Z.”

Me: ….

4 y.o.: “Lo…..lo….”

Me: “Love?”

4 y.o.: “Yes, love. Now, if you put the heart on the tower it gets trapped and there’s no more love in the world.”

(He gestures with the towel bar toward a picture of a London street on our wall featuring red phone booths against a black and white backdrop).

Me: “Oh no.”

4 y.o.: “It’s OK. I won’t let that happen.”

Yep. There it is. That is your heart on the wall and he’s keeping it. All you can really hope for is that you’re leaving it in good hands.