Below, is my entry for Real Simple’s Fourth Annual Light Lessons Essay Contest. I didn’t win. It was a lot of fun to write, though.
Here’s the prompt:
When did you first understand the meaning of love? Maybe you were a child, witnessing a generous act by your father or mother. Maybe the lesson came later, as you grappled with the challenges of being a friend, a spouse, or a parent yourself. Whatever made you understand love—and yourself—better, tell us about it.
This is for my mom, on Valentine’s Day – one of her favorite holidays.
A Whole New Meaning of Love
It may be surprising to learn that I did not understand what true love was until my nephew was born in December 2010. No, I am not referring to the love I have for my nephew Buddy, although it is overwhelmingly blissful; instead I learned what true love is by watching my mom.
Every person who comes in contact with Buddy swoons over him. He is a magnetic, happy, friendly, and beautiful baby. The interaction he has with most people is typical. People (myself included) love to hold him and be around him because of the way he makes them feel.
My mom, however, interacts with him like no one else. She loves Buddy completely, wholly, without expectation. My mom loves Buddy without expecting him to love her or reciprocate in any way. She doesn’t give Buddy attention or nurture him to gain his love. She doesn’t give him attention or nurture him because “it’s what you do with babies”. She doesn’t give him attention or love to impress anyone, or to show anyone what a fantastic grandmother she is. My mom gives Buddy her undivided attention and undying love solely because she loves him.
In the months after Buddy was born, I had the pleasure of spending a lot of time with him. And, a lot of the times I have seen my nephew, my mom has been there too. My mom and I have spent hours laying on the floor, singing nursery rhymes, playing with and caring for Buddy. Over these months, I’ve felt my love for my mom flourish.
I love my mom. I always have. But, like typical mother-daughter teenage relationships, ours greatly deteriorated during my teen years. Our relationship wasn’t helped by my parent’s divorce. It’s taken eleven years to rebuild the connection and love we once had.
Before Buddy was born, I thought my relationship with my mom was great. We thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company and loved each other. I didn’t realize I could love my mom in this new way; loving her through her love of Buddy.
I see the way my mom looks at Buddy and any annoyance I have with my mom washes away. I watch the way my mom holds Buddy and past grudges vanish. I observe my mom comforting Buddy and all negative thoughts leave my mind. I see my mom love Buddy as she loves me.
I thought I understood my mom’s love for me years ago; I love my family and friends deeply. I love all the children in my life; I act like I’m the mother of my dog. What I know now is that my mother’s love for me is so unique, so special and indescribable. It must be witnessed, experienced to truly comprehend.
Thanks to the birth of Buddy, I finally understand that I do not love anyone like my mother loves me.