A few weeks ago, I volunteered at my daughter, Alyssa’s, 3rd grade school. I had my 3 year old, Lila, along for the ride. She’s particularly smoochy. She also often tells us how much she loves us. That day, in front of a group of girls, she did both, and I responded in kind. One of the girls said, “My mom doesn’t tell us she loves us very often. My dad does every day, but my mom usually doesn’t.” I tried to hide my surprise behind a smile and bright eyes, but inside, my heart was breaking. Not just for the young girl, but also for her mom—I know her, and know how much she loves her kids. I gave the girl examples of the kind of things I know her mom does daily to show her love. She smiled.
But as I left the lunch room that day, my thoughts quickly turned to my own girls—especially my eldest, Alyssa. She’s now against giving or getting any kisses-too gushy! We’ve also reached that stage in our relationship where I expect more of her as a young adolescent, which in turn sometimes causes more tension when she doesn’t meet the mark. And, she’s reached the age when kids compare themselves to their peers and their self-esteem can take a nose dive. My mind went into overdrive: “Does she know that I love her? Have I gotten too lax in reminding her of how inextricably her happiness is tied to my happiness? How does she describe our relationship when I’m not around?”
My mind traveled back to when she was a toddler, and we started using the” time out” discipline strategy. When her time out was finished, I always made sure we kissed, and with arms wrapped tightly around each other, said, “I love you.” Even as a toddler, I wanted her to firmly understand that I always loved her, even when I wasn’t happy with her actions. I’m not always consistent about being sure that embrace takes place these days, and I’m not sure why it has fallen by the wayside.
It’s easy for even our best, most loving routines to fall by the wayside. Many of us lead hectic, over-obligated lives. We get cranky and cut corners when we fall behind. But the one place we shouldn’t fall behind is in doing everything we can to be sure that our kids know we love them, no matter what. This is probably our most important job as parents. Think about it—if our kids are secure in our unconditional love for them, they will see that they can thrive, no matter the situation at hand. Love trumps all!
So tonight, when I tuck my cherubs in, I’ll kiss and hug them more slowly, more intentionally. I’ll change my rote “I love you—goodnight” to” I’ll always love and support you,” or “You are my world,” or another phrase that more vividly engrains my undying love for them onto their beautiful brains. And when I catch Alyssa stretched on the floor reading or watching TV, I’ll surprise her with a faceful of kisses. It causes a lot of screaming—and laughing—but is so worth it!