I didn’t ever think that my son would first experience true heartbreak at the age of four. And I certainly didn’t think he would have had his heart broken by another little boy.
My son has been going to pre-school for three, four and five year olds since September. He has many great friends there, but he has had a magical relationship with one little boy in particular. His name is Louis.
While Connor will play trucks or lego or paint happily with any of his boy or girl friends, when it comes to play with Louis, it is all imagination. They play one game they made up called “Wolfhikers.” I don’t know much about Wolfhikers other than they are animals that like to eat owls and pointed sticks. Another favourite from the recesses of their collective imagination is to play “Scary Cat of the Deejen” (your guess is as good as mine on this one). When I come to pick up Connor at the end of the day, if he’s with Louis, he always runs over and asks, “Can I just have five more minutes?” before scurrying off under a tree to some other magical world they’ve created together.
In short, Louis and Connor are soul mates who need nothing other than each other to have a great time: which was why Connor was crestfallen when Louis left school yesterday to start kindergarten.
According to one of my son’s teachers, she’s never seen a child cry like mine did as they were giving each departing five year old his or her special photo album. Despite our weeks of gently mentioning that Louis was off to kindergarten soon, it had suddenly hit Connor like a freight train. His best friend was leaving.
That night at the dinner table, my son just sat there, shoulders slumped, staring blankly at his plate.
“Are you OK, my love?” I asked.
“I’m just sad that Louis left,” he sighed.
“I know. I’m sad too,” I genuinely empathized. “I bet you that Louis really misses you, too,” I added.
He nodded vacantly as his face got redder and his breathing got shorter.
“We’ll make sure to see him soon,” I said reassuringly.
“It’s just..." he began to sputter. "It's just that I love him so much!” he proclaimed, as tears welled up in his beautiful blue eyes and started dripping down his cheeks.
I scooped him up, loving him even more in that moment for being so unabashedly genuine.
“You know how Granny cries when we leave her house sometimes?” I asked.
“Yes,” he whimpered.
“That’s because she loves us so much that it makes her sad when we leave. Aren’t we lucky to have friends like Louis who we love so much and who love us back?”
“Would you like us to call him?”
We gave Louis a call to set up a play date but mostly so my son could hear his voice and know that he hadn’t gone to the international space station, or worse, been eaten by a Wolfhiker.
“Hi Louis...I’m really sad that you’re gone but I’m happy that we are going to see each other soon,” my son gushed the instant he heard Louis’ voice.
I wish I could describe how I felt in those moments. I don’t know if I’ve ever been as simultaneously heartbroken and proud. My son was so vulnerable and child-like in his loss, but somehow seemed so grown up and mature in his acceptance. No tantrums, no wailing. Just being. It was all strangely beautiful to behold.
I hope the next time I face adversity, I can handle it with such honesty and grace.