‘Maturity means acknowledging that Romantic love might constitute only a narrow, and perhaps rather mean-minded, aspect of emotional life, one principally focused on a quest to find love rather than to give it; to be loved rather than to love.
'Children may end up being the unexpected teachers of people many times their age, to whom they offer - through their exhaustive dependence, egoism and vulnerability - an advanced education in a wholly new sort of love, on in which reciprocation is never jealously demanded or fractiously regretted and in which the true goal is nothing less than the transcendence of oneself for the sake of another.
‘Children teach us that love is, in its purest form, a kind of service. The word has grown freighted with negative connotations. An individualistic self-gratifying culture cannot easily equate contentment with being at someone else’s call. We are used to loving others in return for what they can do for us, for their capacity to entertain, charm or soothe us. Yet babies can do precisely nothing. There is, as slightly older children sometimes conclude with a sense of serious discomfort, no ‘point’ to them; that is their point. They teach us to give without expecting anything in return, simply because they need help badly - and we are in a position to provide it. We are inducted into a love based not on an admiration for strength, but on a compassion for weakness, a vulnerability common to every member of the species and one which has been and will eventually again be our own. Because it is always tempting to overemphasise autonomy and independence, these helpless creatures are here to remind us that no one is, in the end, ‘self-made’; we are all heavily in someone’s debt. We realise that life depends - quite literally - on the capacity for love.
‘We learn, too, that being another’s servant is not humiliating, quite the opposite, for it sets us free from the wearying responsibility of continuously catering to our own twisted, insatiable natures. We learn the relief and privilege of being granted something more important to live for than ourselves.'
- from The Course of Love by Alain de Botton