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Do your kids know you love them? Really?

Categories: Guilt Inducers

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Yes, I had an awesome visit with my kids last week, thank you. A highlight for me was the electric boat I had rented through Groupon. We packed a Whole Foods crusty-baguette-sandwich picnic lunch, we somewhat successfully remembered cameras (one child out of two), we had ready a playlist of fun music, and we promptly shoved off into Lake Union, downtown Seattle. “Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip…” It was very cool to see my new city from the water with my kids. We all had a great time. Except one of us. The one hiding her nose in a book.

I so get the book thing! I honor the book thing. I was a bershon book-reader myself, escaping family awkwardness in the pages of My Friend Flicka or Little Women. But I didn’t expect MY spawn, er, child, to escape her one-week-a-year-with-Mama by reading. What gives? One week out of the year. So I called her on it. Asked her what was going on. And the answer surprised me.

She thought I had stopped loving her.



Yes, and she was angry about it. Hey, I would be too! It took a while to get her to admit it, but my daughter thought I had stopped loving her because I was no longer doing all the things that — to her — had meant Mama. Like reminding her to brush her teeth before bed. Like reading stories at bedtime.Like making her breakfast. Like spending hours cleaning or in the kitchen. Like having no wants of my own and sacrificing my wants and desires for my children. (Wait, what? Yes, she actually said that. And that’s a whole other conversation.)

What she failed to fully understand, of course, was that my mothering would have changed through the years whether I was mothering from 3000 miles away or from the room next door to hers. She’s eleven. Fully capable of remembering to brush her teeth. But in her mind, all the I-love-you’s uttered regularly through the year did not mean Mama-loves-you as much as making a sandwich would have.

Which brings me to my question to you. Do your kids know you love them? I mean, REALLY know? Without-a-doubt knowing? Because I suspect that, just like grown-up type people can be clueless to the true realities of any type of relationship, often our kids create weird little doubts inside them as to our love for them. Because, you know, calling someone on the carpet for leaving their bike in the driveway doesn’t seem to spell I-L-O-V-E-Y-O-U as much as it could.

My daughter wanted acts of service from me. Instead, I was giving her words of affirmation. (take the Five Love Languages assessment and see what yours are) I failed to see this, failed to know it, and as a result for nearly a week we weren’t joined at the hip the way we might have been. I miss that I missed out loving my kid the way she wanted to be loved, and I am sad that she felt less loved than she could have. I am ecstatic that we talked it out, and I am thrilled that we know each other better, learning things about each other’s ways of loving that we might have missed had we been loving from the room next door.

So go hug your kid now, for me, because you can. And then answer this: do your kids know you love them? REALLY know? How do you know they know? Do you ever wonder if you are getting through as much as you want to?

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