Love Is Not a Pie
Just before my second child was born, I realized I harbored a secret fear: I couldn’t imagine loving another baby as much as I loved the son who came first. But by the time the doctor handed me my daughter I had completely forgotten my worries. In that instant I learned that my capacity to love was not a zero-sum game. I call this the “love is not a pie” idea. In this case, I can give away an entire pie and still have whole pie left. It’s spiritual, not mathematical.
My two kids always got along pretty well, but occasionally one or the other would try the “You love him/her better” technique to gain some leverage. My response, “Love is not a pie,” often drew puzzled glances, eye rolling and—at least once—the response, “Of course it isn’t. Pie is pie.”
Fast forward to my kids on the verge of being teens. Divorced for a number of years, I am now in love with Marcia, a wonderful woman who has never been married or had children. Intellectually, she understands that my being a father is not just an obligation, but a duty I treasure. Yet sometimes that looks to her like I’m too quick to drop plans we’ve made to do something for or with the kids. We’re not talking dramatic trips to the emergency room, but an adjustment to someone’s calendar of sleepovers and soccer games.
My time—our time—was a pie; give it away and it’s gone. But I wasn’t just guarding my time; at some level I feared my relationship with my kids might change. I was asking Marcia to surrender a lot of the control she’d had over her life to date, to believe that I loved her as much as I did the kids, no matter how I spent my time. In return I had to learn again that there was enough love for everyone.
I did not presume to offer my homey wisdom on pies to this very accomplished thirty-six year old woman, but she heard me say it to the children. And at some point she decided to look at all the turmoil and sacrifices as a chance to experience being a wife and mother, complete with both the good and the messy parts, like the teen drama still ahead of us then. She says my goofy “love is not a pie” aphorism served her well. We were both reminded that love means giving with no expectation of return. There is always more pie left.
The kids are adults now, but we’re adopting a second dog to join Bear, the very-Alpha first dog. And when Bear looked askance at Buster, the new arrival, Marcia told him very matter-of-factly, “Love is not a pie, Bear.”
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