Before you break his heart, will you hear me out? As I write this, there is a precious, 8-year-old boy asleep in the other room. He has a favorite stuffed animal tucked under his arm. He is one who loves fiercely and loyally. I know this about him because I am his mama, and right now, I am the lucky one who gets to bask in the glow of his love. But several years down the road, I will be the mama of the boy whose heart is about to be broken. By you.
I know that you are not malicious. Your intent is surely one of self-preservation, of protecting your own heart, of letting go and moving on and growing forward. And that’s ok. I’m proud of you for following your intuition, for not stifling your need to be free.
I’ve stood where you are standing more than once in my life. I know the internal war that has been raging on the battlefields of your mind and your heart. You liked him, maybe even loved him for a time. But your gut told you that it was a first, and that firsts don’t usually last forever. Plenty of fish in the sea, isn’t that what they say?
That song, “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do,” was well before your time, but it goes to show that a breakup has never been easy. In the end, one party always emerges less scathed while the other is left amid the carnage. Thankfully it is temporary, but the first broken heart delivers an especially painful sting.
A lifetime ago, I rejected the first boy to ask me to a school dance. He came to my house with flowers and put his heart on the line, only to be turned down. Sure, I was already busy the weekend of the dance, but I was also afraid to say yes. I was awkward, self-conscious, and selfishly not willing to wade through the discomfort of sorting out my adolescent confusion. So I sent him back to his car as I turned around with the bright red fire of deep shame burning on my cheeks. To this day, the hurt I probably caused him remains one of my life’s greatest regrets.
The thing I neglected to consider, though, while in my teenage bubble, was that his mother had likely driven him over that day. Had she been waiting in the car, full of anxious anticipation? Craning her neck expectantly, watching for her son to walk back down my driveway with a bounce in his step and a smile in his eyes, signaling acceptance? She had probably coached him on the drive over, building him up and channeling her own inner courage into his thoughts.
What I didn’t know before becoming a mother to my son is what it feels like to live moment by moment with your whole heart existing outside of your body. A friend told me this when I revealed to her that I was pregnant. And up until the day he was born, I couldn’t fully grasp her meaning. But once he arrived, I couldn’t fathom another millisecond without him.
Being a mother is hell on the heart. I live for that little boy. He’s the only one (along with his sister) who has heard the sound of my heartbeat from the inside. I have carried him in my belly, then in my arms, then on my hip, then grabbed hold of his chubby little fingers as he learned to take his own first steps. I have vowed to always let him curl up on my lap until it is no longer physically possible. I’ve hidden my tears behind dark glasses as I walked him to his classroom on the first day of kindergarten. Then later that day, I sat in my car, just out of sight, spying on him while he played on the playground to make sure he had found a friend. Our hearts are intertwined, and when you break his heart, you will also break mine.
So before you do, will you consider these things first?
With yourself, first and foremost, but also with him. Lead with your heart rather than being influenced by external pressure from friends, social media, or false expectations. Love him for the right reasons, and when your heart tells you that it’s time, that things have run their course, then let him go for the right reasons, as well. If you can promise honesty above all else, then any decisions you may make during the course of your relationships, both with him and beyond him, will be respected and valued.
Be truthful with him and tell him what you need from him along the way. Don’t sell him short by being secretive or timid because you are afraid that speaking the truth might hurt him. Love, especially first love, is a fluid, ever-evolving experiment. We want to be tender but more importantly, we must be true.
Love my son for who he is. He won’t be perfect, he will have flaws and faults and shortcomings, but don’t try to change him. Love him as he is, while also encouraging him to live into and become the best version of himself. And expect the same in return. Don’t let anyone change you, either. You, too, have unending worth, so love yourself first and then require mutual respect to be a foundation of your relationships, here and always.
Now the time has come. You feel an imminent change on the horizon, a necessary ending of what has been. Trust yourself, and know that you will do what is right, for both of you. His heart may be a scrambled mess. He might want to cling tightly to what was, and he might not know how to let go. But he’ll be ok. You’ll be ok, too. You might heed my advice, or you might not, but maybe someday, you’ll give your heart away to a little boy, too, and think back to this moment.
When his heart breaks, so will mine. I might even be tempted to string toilet paper through your trees, but I won’t. It isn’t the first heartbreak for me, and because of him it won’t be the last. We’ll pick up the pieces together and separately, because even though he is my whole heart, his heart is his own. And a bit of it was yours for a while, too.