Has your child ever gotten intro trouble? It isn’t the first time one of my children has been in trouble, and we ended with an “I love you.” That phrase really is the refrain of our home. When I leave for work, I hug my kids and say, “I love you.” When I come home, it’s the same. When I put them to bed, I say it again. I cannot think of a day I haven’t told my children that I loved them.
I don’t know if I say it too much. I don’t know if you can tell your children you love them too much. But what I can say is that I didn’t hear that phrase all that often from my parents.
I’m not sure exactly why that is; however my grandmother said, “I love you” after everything. She must have told me she loved me three or for times a day, sometimes even more. When I was in trouble, the lecture always ended with an, “I love you.” It seemed like no matter what I did, how I performed, the good, the bad, and the ugly, my grandmother loved me.
Back then I didn’t think much of it. But looking back now, I know without a shadow of a doubt that my grandmother loved me no matter what. And I must say, in comparison to the uncertainty some children have around their own parents’ love for them, it feels like this cool refreshing certainty that one cannot help but want to give to his or her own children. So I say it a lot. I say it when I’m angry with my kids. I say it when I’m happy with them. I say it before I hang up the phone, and when I drop them off at school, and before they step out on the soccer turf, or gymnastics mat, or settle into bed.
I have this strong desire for my children to know that regardless of who they are, what they do, who they become, how they perform, or how they feel about me, that they know I love them. My love for them cannot fade, and it does not have to be earned. It is the foundation of our relationship. My love for them is their safety net. It is the parachute. It is their soft landing.
This doesn’t mean I don’t express dissatisfaction when they slack off in school. It doesn’t mean that I don’t speak firmly with them when they do something boneheaded, like my son did in garden class. It doesn’t mean that I don’t have high expectations for them as humans. It also doesn’t mean that I look the other way because I am blinded by my love for my children.
It simply means that my children are loved. They have a father who is there for them during the good and the bad. Sometimes it means tough love, and sometimes it means “kiss their scuffed knee” love. But ultimately, I want my children to know, regardless of how they turn out, that their father loves them.
So when my kids misbehave… When I tell him them I love them after scolding them, they do not roll their eyes. They do not argue with me, or stomp out of the room. They just look up at me and say, “I love you too.” And in so many ways it feel like they are saying, “I know you are doing this because you love me.”
It took us a long time to get to this point, but I know for a fact that we wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t made sure that he knew I loved him.