With all the recent talk of new and first boyfriends among the moms I know, and probably the sheer amount of Gossip Girl I’ve been watching lately (I have a real problem) I started to reminisce about early love and how it shapes the way we see forever love. For some people (and penguins), the two are the same. For most of us, finding forever love is a journey, with a course charted by different relationships until we hit our destination. For those of us who have found it, getting perspective on how we got there is solid reminder as our kids start to chart their own course.
First love. Do you remember it? I think you’d be hard pressed to find a woman that doesn’t remember every detail and maybe that’s what makes parents nervous about their kids finding it. It hits you like a ton of bricks – you’re out on your own, equipped with what you’ve been taught, with new feelings and experiences coming your way every second. The first time you open yourself up to someone that isn’t family or a friend. Getting to know someone’s family, which might be far different than your own. A time that you can be open and love without hesitation.
All of those things make the fall after much more painful. If and when it ends, no matter the reason it is devastating. Sometimes sharp and stinging, others dull and lasting.
My first, first date was almost 20 years ago. It was the start to my journey, I was young, a freshman in high school and he was older. I remember being in it and feeling like it was the first time someone saw the whole me and accepted it. My heart was full. There was adventure – dates out, nights in, yellow roses, letters, presents for no reason. It was everything, including stressful. Balancing the relationship, friends, school, activities. Finding balance was a huge lesson.
It was the first time I opened up to someone other than my friends and family. It was the first time I shared thoughts and dreams for my future, and the first time I let myself imagine what life could be like if it continued.
Almost two years went by and then, it was over almost as quickly as it had started. We were in different places with different things ahead of us. I was left behind, devastated.
After that it was different. Guarded, careful. Looking to fill what I knew was possible and in some cases trying to recreate what once was. Most of which, looking back now was not fair to those I brought along for the ride – some long term, others short and fleeting.
First love changes you, shapes you, gives you point of reference.
A funny thing happens, though, when you find forever love, at least for me. All of those loves past, including the first, melt away. All of the measuring sticks that were used for comparison are broken or burned and you just exist. Any prior hurt or hesitance dissolves and it feels natural. My last first date was 8 years ago this summer and I remember every detail. The conversation long and vast, but easy. Leaving and wondering the next time we’d talk or see each other. It was a an emotional but controlled free fall. Seeing things as they happened, letting go of inhibitions and being open to the future. I had found it and didn’t want to let go.
Not every day is as easy as the first, especially with a toddler and one on the way. But, the conversation has continued and love taken a new form in seeing C parent and bond with J, of getting me what I need when I am too exhausted to get up. Running out to ‘bucks for morning coffee on the weekends. Planning our future, always. What we’ll do with the boys, how we want to change our home, go back to school, take trips. First love gets you to forever love and once you’ve found it, there is no looking back.
For those stressing about what first love and relationships mean for your children, try to remember. Its one stop on the journey and there is so much they will learn about themselves that you just can’t teach them. Set boundaries, be present and let go. They will remember what you taught them. If they are hurt along the way pick them up, and know it is a lesson in how to recognize their forever love when they find it.