Oscar asked me recently if I loved Edgar, August, and him “the same.” I understood the intent of his question and, I hope, answered it in a way that simultaneously honored that intent and reaffirmed what he needed to hear.
But the answer I gave to him was not entirely accurate.
Since I have yet to encounter an instrument that can “measure” love, love, to me, seems not to be quantifiable. And since it can’t be quantified, asking if you love one person “the same” as another must imply something different. And if we’re talking about the love of one human being for another, “the same” can’t possibly apply. There are simply too many variables.
And yet many times I have heard parents say that they love all of their children equally, love them all “the same.” In fact, my response to Oscar’s question was really just a variation on this theme.
But I don’t love all my children the same. How could I?
As I look at this recent photo, nothing could be clearer. Here is Oscar on the right–not in my arms, and certainly not needing to be. He has space and the confidence to at least temporarily step outside of his mother’s protective embrace–and I couldn’t be happier for or more proud of him. On the left is August. At two, he still needs his mother nearby; but because he is who he is–independent and strong–my grip is discernibly loose. And in my arms is Edgar. My hold is tight; he is enveloped in my arms–because right now he needs to be. His body is presenting him with challenges, and he needs to be held, comforted.
And I am reminded of Cordelia’s brave and wise words to her father, King Lear, when he asks her how much she loves him: “I love your majesty/According to my bond; no more nor less.”
So, no, I don’t love Oscar, Edgar, and August “the same.” I love my sons as much as I love them–in Cordelia’s words, “no more nor less.” Like Cordelia’s, my “bond,” as the mother of these three amazing boys, is limitless and unconditional; unlike Cordelia, the recipients of my love, my sons, are already infinitely wiser than hers, the befuddled Lear.
In the meantime, I will continue to make my arms available–and let my sons guide me as to whether they need to be in them or out.