Heart Smarts: Love 101

Shannon Dean

My 9-year-old son has always been partial to blonds. I suppose this should hurt my brunette feelings, but I’ve grown used to it. Since preschool, he’s been open about which girls he finds pretty and which he finds nice. The two never overlap. He seems to prefer the aloof, high-maintenance types who won’t wrinkle their clothes at recess. Those who will chase him with a lightsaber are apparently not challenging enough for anything more than camaraderie.

So it was hardly a surprise when my son’s current crush pushed him aside during a class photo and announced, “My mother says that I have a face made for the camera.” Their teacher laughed, replying that daily primping must pay off in terms of photography. It is true that the object of my son’s affection is blessed with a face that invites admiring stares. According to her, he’s not as lucky. Apparently, the negative attention only makes her more alluring.

Considerate behavior is not a requirement for admittance into my son’s heart. Blond hair and big blue eyes are the only costs of admission. Although he could seemingly care less about kindness, dependability, or empathy, I’ve decided not to lecture him in the hopes that his behavior is completely normal and age-appropriate. We are late bloomers when it comes to affairs of the heart.

Even into my mid-twenties, I considered a swagger, a souped-up car, and a bad attitude challenging and alluring. In fact, when I met my husband, I almost passed because I thought that he was too nice. Because he felt like an old friend, the relationship seemed too easy. I don’t know that I ever made a conscious decision to redefine my type. Over time, I just found that I preferred being treated with respect and that contentment is actually every bit as exciting as angst.

When I was chasing unattainable, irresponsible types, my grandmother used to click her tongue and scold, “Excitement and looks fade. True compatibility is forever. When you face life’s challenges, you’ll wish your partner was also your friend.” I used to roll my eyes and sigh, thinking that these old-fashioned rules did not apply to me. But now that I am both a wife and a mother, I know that my grandmother was absolutely right. I’ve learned there is nothing more appealing than a partner willing to change a diaper or cook a meal. Likewise, the sound of my husband singing over the baby monitor brings true happiness to my heart.

In light of these truths, I really want to tell my little Romeo that he shouldn’t turn a blind eye on anyone with whom friendship is effortless. Any girl willing to stand by him and defend the galaxy is worth a second look. I want to tell him that he deserves a partner who appreciates his goofy sense of humor and values his generous heart. I want him to realize that when the roof is leaking, when the kids are sick, and when the car won’t start, a partner chosen for physical attributes may not fare as well as someone who is patient, kind, and supportive. I hope that when it really counts, my son will choose well since he’s watched his parents support one another through good times and bad.

My husband is a handsome man, but if his looks changed tomorrow, I would still love him every bit as much because he is my closest friend and the only other person in the world who loves my children as I do. One day, I hope those same children realize that a person’s heart and kind spirit are just as important as the face and body that houses them and can be every bit as beautiful.