Is it because I’m a paedophile that I so feel the intensity of this child’s love and despair? Could only someone like me take her love for Steven seriously and not dismiss the possibility, as does her mother (with a half-suppressed chuckle), that Steven might reciprocate her love? My eyes prick with tears each time I watch this video. But there are also things in it which make me angry…
Uploaded on Apr 26, 2010
“A friend of mine shared this video to me on facebook. I can’t help but smile and laugh as I watch her cry over a man named Steven. This cute baby reminded me of myself. Someday, this li’l girl will see this video and realize that time really mends broken hearts.”
The little girl is sat on the lower bed of a bunk-bed. The mother is probably sat or kneeling on the floor since the camera, which is hand-held, is just below the child’s eye-level. This point of view makes us specially aware of her neck, which at moments of greatest sorrow and despair becomes tense with the emotion and exertion of crying.
The girl is used to being filmed like this – the camera’s presence doesn’t intrude on her interaction with her mother. The camera is steady and maintains its framing. A part of the mother’s mind must be focused on filming. Maybe she’s thinking about the eventual destination of the footage (Facebook, as the Youtube details make clear).
The child is emotionally distressed. She starts by telling us that she if four years old. Her mother then asks her why she is crying. The girl, who is articulate, struggles to reply to this question as she tries to control surges of sorrow which leave her breathless.
It becomes clear that the girl and her family are moving to Japan and the idea of being separated from a ‘teacher’ called Steven is more than she can bear. She says:
“well, I really want to take him with me to Japan”
Her mother replies:
“but then his mom would be sad – she wouldn’t have her baby Steven any more”
This seems to provoke a moment of maximum sorrow. The child is stopped by her thoughts, then she realises how completely hopeless things are, how this is not a situation that can be salvaged. She gives some stuttering, coughing sobs, pulls her blanket over herself for comfort and says through her tears:
“but I love him so much”
the mother replies:
“and I’m sure he loves you too honey (or Hannah?)”
the little girl:
“…and he loves me”
the mother (stifling a laugh):
“I’m sure sweetie.”
“And you’re going to find a lot of other boys to (word unclear) you, ok?”
the little girl:
“I only like Steven”
Whenever I see a child crying like this the intensity of it seems incommensurate to what a human mind could bear.
Of course what I’m doing is imagining the intensity of grief that would be necessary to provoke me, an adult, into crying as she is doing: an intensity of grief such that could overcome my decades of conditioning, of learning what it is to be grown-up, of learning to hide my true feelings, seems beyond anything life could now throw at me. The last time I cried with any abandon was at the death of a much-loved relative, and even then I suppose I was ‘sobbing’ rather than ‘crying’. The callouses on my emotions have grown too thick for me to be able feel heartbreak as does this girl.
Her crying preserves her beauty in a way that a temper tantrum wouldn’t.
Indeed, she is the more beautiful for her tears. They have transformed her from being ‘just’ a little girl into some incarnation of Love. She has the beauty of a Dido lamenting for her lost Aeneas on the shores of Carthage. Maybe the way we cry reflects the reason for our crying, and we distinguish noble and just reasons from petty and selfish ones. Maybe we’re moved because we know her love is truer and more raw than anything we, as adults, could feel in our compromised, compromising world.
The girl speaks of Steven as a ‘teacher’, but I think this is unlikely: other than during a ‘honeymoon period’ at the start of the school year children rarely have crushes on their class teachers: they’ve too often seen them bad-tempered, tired, heard them shouting, and had to learn to share them with all the other children in their class.
I think it more likely that Steven is a classroom helper, or a trainee teacher: she refers to him by his first name rather than ‘Mr So-and-so’, as she would probably know her class-teacher.
Maybe she’s in love with Steven because he was kind to her, gave her thoughtful attention and showed her more respect than she was accustomed to receive from adults. Maybe Steven did, in fact, love her. Maybe he was one of those adults who have the capacity to take a child seriously, to respect them as individuals, to feel a love for them which is not condescending – in short, a Paedophile.
If this were the case the haters and paedophobes would unthinkingly label this love and attention as ‘grooming’. Incapable of imagining how anyone (other than someone with a genetic stake in the child) could love something as ‘insignificant’ as a four year-old the only reward they can imagine an adult hoping for from such a transaction is sex. “Honi soit qui mal y pense“.
Why, at a moment like this, isn’t the mother holding her child? Why is she talking to her daughter in the emotionless monotone of someone conducting an interview?
The video’s youtube page has ‘comments disabled’. I’m not sure why. The only external comment remains the description left by the uploader:
“I can’t help but smile and laugh as I watch her cry over a man named Steven.”
“This cute baby…”
“Someday, this li’l girl will see this video and realize that time really mends broken hearts.”
What kind of person could find this child’s sorrow a source of amusement, laughter even?
Nor is she a ‘baby’. Any child of four would really not appreciate being so described.
Finally who says that ‘time mends broken hearts’? In time we may forget the pain, we may even forget the person we loved; but ‘forgetting’ is not ‘healing’: many of us have physical scars that bear witness to childhood accidents we have long forgotten, some people may have even lost limbs in childhood and, once grown up, no longer remember the accident or illness that caused that loss. Whilst we may forget the damage itself its effects may linger on. Who’s not to say that the same happens with love?
I’ve watched this video many times whilst preparing this post. It still makes me cry. There is a terribly sad beauty to it.
I dream of a world where this little girl and Steven could express and share their love for each other, a world in which a child can say she loves a man and that he loves her back and people won’t laugh derisively at the idea. I ask again – why isn’t this mother comforting her child?
I wish I were Steven and could reach through my screen, take this sweet, hurt little child in my arms and comfort her, tell her, ‘Yes, I love you too. We’re together. Everything will be alright’.