I've been blind-sided by a life first I thought was many years in the future: Esme, at the tender age of 2 years and 9 months, is in the throes of her very first crush.
Alfie had a school friend over to play and no sooner had he come through the door when Esme had attached herself to his side.
For the entire afternoon, her voice could be heard in a constant stream of informative updates on what she was doing, and questions to him about what he was doing. At one point, she declared her love for him.
I felt for the poor little guy; he had come on the promise of an afternoon of Lego creation and jumping off furniture with his Ninja Turtle compadre, and found himself squarely in the crosshairs of Esme’s affection.
It was painful to watch. No, it was heart breaking to watch.
Esme was too caught up in her own joy to realise that her feelings were completely one sided, but watching from a discreet distance, I was treated to a glimpse into a world of future pain.
I saw my little daughter, effervescent with an emotion she called love, being squarely rebuffed: I don’t blame Alfie’s friend, that’s a whole lotta love to be offered when you just want to fight with sticks, but oh, how I wish we could all be spared the inevitable pain of unrequited love.
This time we got away lightly; we were able to distract Esme and give the boys some much needed space, but what about the next time, and the one after that?
I was surprised at how scared this question made me about the future: My head was full of the conversations I will have trying to rebuild my shattered children when someone is careless with their hearts. The thought of having to scrape up the pieces and somehow fit them back together makes me feel suddenly old, and weary.
This morning I looked at my unsuspecting daughter, still giddy with affection, and smiled at the easy way she loves. She has no fear of loving, having only loved her family who love her right back.
Honest to God it’s like watching Bambi’s mama get shot: Just stay in the trees!! Don’t come out and eat the grass!!
But of course she will, as well she should.
I know one day I will hear a door slam and a tornado dash through the house. I know I will go to her and see her body wracked with big heaving sobs. I will tell her over and over that there is nothing wrong with her and that she will find someone who loves her as she deserves to be loved. I know she won’t believe me, but I will believe it enough for us both.
I’ll do these things because that is the only thing you can do when your child realises that loving someone is no guarantee of them loving you back.
And I'm dreading it with every fibre of my being.