As we often do, my youngest son and I walked to school together one morning this week. Along the 15 minute walk, we decided to count the Japanese maple trees, newly-planted and adorning a long block. There were 27 trees, all saplings, all beautifully blooming and making quite an impression on us, the inadvertent passers-by.
When we reached the bottom of the hill, almost at the stoplight where I leave him in the hands of the crossing guard and allow him to walk the final block to school alone, he looked up at me and asked me what global warming was. I knew I had approximately one minute to answer this question, from the time of his question to the moment when the light would change and he would be shepherded across the street. So I did, succinctly and in age-appropriate terms for a fifth grader.
And then he was off to school, and I turned and walked back up the long hill to go to work.
For the past two years, this has been our special time together, this 15 minute walk. We don’t always do it (we’re a bit weather averse, to be honest) but we’ve done it often enough that it has made an impression on both of us. I really look forward to our walks – they’re a time to talk, to laugh, and to enjoy each other’s company. My youngest son is intellectually curious, so we often discuss interesting topics. And he’s sweet and fun, so we’re often laughing at a joke together, or he’s telling me how much he loves me, trying to convince me that he loves me more than I love him.
This is simply not possible, I tell him. It’s like that now-classic children’s book that was first published around the time my oldest child was born – “Guess How Much I Love You?” Big Nut Brown Hare and Little Nut Brown Hare get into a competition about who loves who more. It’s clear that Little Nut Brown Hare thinks he’s won at the end, when he tells Big Nut Brown Hare that he loves him all the way to the moon. But as Little Nut Brown Hare yawns and falls asleep, Big Nut Brown Hare assures him that he loves him all the way to the moon … and back.
That’s how I feel about my kids. And perhaps especially about this youngest -- my most cuddly, snuggly, loving of the three.