So Facebook finally caught up with me and I became “friends” my very first boyfriend. Ever. That high school, “first cut is the deepest,” first love that many of us have.
It was great to reconnect with an important person in my life, but it also made me remember the soul-wrenching shock that is the first real break-up, the hours I spent diligently replaying the same few songs by The Smiths over and over while scribbling bad poetry on tear-stained spiral notebooks. Maybe some of you never had this. Maybe you are still partnered with your first sweetie, your first kiss.
But for the rest of us, you know what I’m talking about. The way the rug was pulled out from under your very essence the first time someone you loved ended things with you. That feeling where your heart hurt in way that you never knew was possible before. Like when a toddler touches the hot part of a stove for the first time and recoils in shock, anger, and pain. Even if you go through many relationships for the rest of your life, nothing tops that initial introduction into the world of love and loss.
As I traipsed down the memory of my own teen-angst heartache, I turned my thoughts toward the future, and began anticipating when my own small daughters will inevitably feel the crush of some young person who no longer reciprocates their own youthful romantic feelings. I imagined the sweet curly head of one my girls shaking with sobs in my maternal lap over some unreciprocated love. It’s hard to look at their chubby cheeks and childish bodies and ponder that someone will someday make them cry as hard as they do now over a time-out or busted toy.
Ouch. I can already hurt for them in anticipation. But what can I do? The whole heartbreak thing, along with the mooning and moping around, is a pivotal part of emotional and social development. Of course my first break-up was painful, but it laid a cornerstone into my life’s foundation on what I expect, need, and demand in a relationship. It provided valuable lessons on how to love, how to grieve, and how to recover. As an adult woman I now look back on my first young relationship (even with the bummer ending) as an intensely meaningful part of my adolescence that I wouldn’t trade for anything.
And just like I’m a better person for having gone through my youthful romantic experience, and subsequent first heartbreak, I know my children will need to experience their own hearts getting shattered. Probably more than once. I can’t shelter them from this and I wouldn’t want to. They need to experience love and loss so that they can grow into complicated, interesting women who know who they are and what they want in a partner.
Just as I am glad I went through my own teen heartache, in a weird way I’m glad that my children will experience the same thing. I can already see my first-grade daughter enter into that early glimmer of elementary school flirtation. Sometimes I look at the gang of little girls and boys congregating on the steps outside her school, with their backpacks slung oh-so casually and their heads tossed back in laughter, and I fast forward to the adolescent amped-up version of this interaction. I feel the throb of hormones to come and the inevitable sadness that will follow whatever bonds are made and broken.
And when this happens I anticipate that I will be able to do more than just coo in mock understanding. Will my own teenage drama make me a better parent? I don’t know. But I am certain that it will make me empathetic and kind when my children need to lean on me someday. I may even share some appropriate lyrics by The Smiths.