The school in which I worked required the teachers to do conferences twice a year. Once I was able to overcome my crippling social anxieties around the entire process, I actually started to look forward to these meetings. They were utterly exhausting, a flurry of activity, sometimes really upsetting for the child or the parent or me, and often full of sheer joy. Those moments of joy sometimes came from when I was able to tell a parent in all honesty that I really liked their child. I was always honest with parents, and sometimes there were kids that I thought, “Wow. That is a kid I really enjoy talking to and I would love to be her friend.” Being able to tell a parent that they had raised a child who was simply a good person and likable was something to treasure.
I think part of the reason that parents were so satisfied to hear it was because they knew the heart of the teacher. They understood that, for many teachers, the love is the easy part. I love children; that’s why I became a classroom teacher. Like is a whole other story. The phrase “love is blind” may or may not be true, I don’t know, but I can tell you for a fact that like sure isn’t. It’s tenuous and changeable, completely in the moment. Like is fickle and slippery, and it’s certainly not easy to hold on to.
Have you ever noticed how kids are really open to saying that they like someone? They’ll be hanging out in the sandbox and just tell each other, “I like you. Can I have that shovel?” When did that go away? I wondered about that and then I met someone who had a lot of the qualities that I have which make me feel sort of different. I knew I liked her right away, and so I told her. I’m not a terribly outgoing person in live-action life, so this was a real challenge for me. I told her, and she sort of looked at me like I had done something unacceptable in public. Then she chuckled and said, “Yeah. I like you, too.” We are still friends several years later. I was completely convinced that I would continue to do this in my life, but I didn’t. It was just too scary! I had been able to muster up the courage a few times here and there, but in general I was just too chicken. Maybe like was more powerful than I realized.
When I started contemplating how strong an emotion like really was, I was having a pretty rough time with Daughter. One night I confessed to Husband, “I love her. Of course, I love her. But I don’t really like her right now.” It felt so good and so awful to say it out loud, and the truth of it was overwhelming. Daughter naturally got through her phase and I got through whatever was punking my emotional state and one day I realized we were cuddling again. I looked down at her lovely little head, kissed the top, and said to her, “I love you and I like you.” She squeezed me until I thought I would burst, and I knew she instantly understood everything. That became the most powerful phrase in my home life. “I love you and I like you.” I don’t say it all the time, though it is usually true, but when I say it to Daughter or Husband, they know I really mean it. To like someone in a moment is sometimes better than love. Like sees everything, all the wrinkles and spots and cracks and flaws, and just takes them as part of the whole. Like isn’t despite those things or because of those things, it’s with those things. I like you. Maybe like’s what makes the world go ’round.