I was relaxing after all of the necessary chores had been completed, enjoying some light reading. My son Matthew leaned down to check out the book and then asked whether it was good or not as he laid down beside me. He's recently become a reader although his choices usually involve some war materials, research on early planes, guns and such. I think I'm just happy he's reading. Anyway, I could tell this there was some more serious conversation coming so I said a quick pray and asked what was on his mind.
In his very teenage way he proceeded to say that he'd just been talking to a friend who didn't really know that her parents loved her. They never said it to her, she never got a hug from them, and she felt they just disciplined her excessively because they didn't like her. I knew that he was saying how wonderful it was that we did indeed tell him at least once a day that we loved him and that hugs were plentiful around here, but I've learned to just let the implied statement stand on its own. I let him talk some more and then I asked him a few questions. We were able to talk about the fact that indeed a parent's job is to provide guidance and discipline for our children, and by doing so, express our love for them. We also talked about the fact that some people aren't taught how to express love in the same ways we are doing it in our house and that it isn't right or wrong, but sometimes one way makes us feel better more often. We were also able to agree that grounding a teenager from a lot of distractions like the computer, video games and such for awhile because they got a bad grade on their report card certainly seemed logical, and indeed was the actions of a parent who really did love their child. But he kept going back to the one thing that really bothered him. "But Mom, they never tell her they love her."
Indeed, telling our children we love them should be a daily occurrence. It should happen through action: taking care of them, providing boundaries for them, being consistent in what we say and do, leading by example and so on. It should happen through prayer: as you pray for them, their future choices, their future spouse and even what teachers they might have next year or helping them to grow in something they are struggling with at the time. It should happen through quantity time as well as quality time as we make them a priority in our lives. And it should happen through regular, daily contact with them as we hug them and tell them we love them. Sometimes you can tell them why you love that that day but they really just need to hear that you love them. Just because they are yours. Just because they are standing there at that moment. Just because.
I don't realize how often we say "I love you" in our house until moments happen like those with Matthew, or I overhear one of Jonathan's friends saying "Do you have to hug and kiss your Mom every time you leave the house???" (His response was "No, but it's nice and I miss her when I'm gone.") And when I hear it coming from the youngest member in our household. Laura was running by Matthew just moments ago and she came to a complete stand still, looked up at him with the biggest smile, said "Mattchew, I wuv you, too!" and then took off to settle down in front of Caillou. Matthew's face lit up as he turned back to his studies. Yes, spreading love is one of the things we do well here.
Indeed, "I wuv you, too" is Laura's standard phrase whether she's saying it before someone else says it or after. She knows that everyone in the house, and even those family members who only come over once or twice a month love her. She why shouldn't she "wuv you, too"?