I’m so lucky to be your mama
December 30, 2015
There are so many ways to say “I love you” and sometimes with little kids, they’re hard to hear. Like when a child crawls into your lap sobbing, they’re often saying “I love you; you make me feel better and right now I need to feel better.”
Whether I have sick kids, tired kids, angry kids or sad kids… they all find nontraditional ways to reach out and remind me that they love me. The thing is, they’re not saying it because they think I need to hear it, they’re saying it because they feel it.
When I was married, we went to a pre-marriage counseling session where we were told that no matter what happens, it’s important that we remind ourselves that we really do love one another. For a while, I started saying “I love you” when I really felt other things, mostly to remind myself that in spite of the fact that I was feeling angry at the moment, underneath it all was love. I still do that with my girls sometimes. If one of them are being a big jerk, I tell them that I love them, sort of to remind myself that even though this moment is difficult, I love them and I know the moment will pass.
I don’t recommend replacing the “I hate you” that someone might have earned with an “I love you” because that’s self-destructive. But as a phrase, I do think it’s often under-used. I can’t think of anyone I consider an enemy, and I can’t think of a single friend that I don’t feel love for. I can think of a lot of people I choose not to interact with that I still love as a human. And a lot of people I can’t bring myself to feel love for. Love is weird that way.
Once my daughter was born, I started seeing everyone I came across as “someone’s child” and became infinitely more loving as a person.
I’d tear up seeing a homeless person, wondering if his mama knew where he was and if her heart was broken. I’d cry at news stories and violent movies, especially if they were based on real events. Every one of those bleeding, dying people were someone’s real-life babies. How can that be entertaining? I’d rather watch Game of Thrones (fictitious violence) than Schindler’s list (the truth of the horrors is unbearable). For the record, I’ve seen them both and the true stories are always crippling and nightmarish. I end up depressed for ages, whereas the fictional violence is easier to reconcile. They’re both the result of cinematic effects, but one leaves me with a sense of awe at the storytelling, special effects, costuming and acting whereas the other leaves me disgusted by my fellow humans because the bad guys… they were also someone’s babies. How could anyone’s child do such a thing?
Back to the I love you’s… the ones I share with my girls…
It gets old after a while, those three words. And sometimes they don’t tell the whole story, which is far richer than a simple “I love you” can hold. I think my favorite way to tell my girls that I love them is when I say “I’m so lucky to be your mama.” They all reply the same “I’m so lucky to be your kid.” I hope it never feels as scripted as it sounds because every time I say it, I’m feeling it deeply.
Looking into their little faces (can’t say eyes- did you know your eyeballs never actually grow. Google it, it’s true) I’m often filled with a sense of honor. I’m honored to watch them figuring things out. I’m honored to watch them grow (not the eyeballs, we’ve discussed that) and I’m honored to be part of their adventure in life, wherever that takes them. I am truly lucky to be their mama and I feel it every single day.
Another one of my favorites is “Every day you inspire me” and it’s true; whether it’s an unsolicited act of generosity, reaching a goal with a lot of struggle, graciously resolving a sibling dispute or learning something new. Their response to this is always “Every day you inspire me, mama.” Which means, of course, that “I’m a child and I parrot things because when are children not inspired and it sounds like a nice thing you said and I happen to love you so I’ll return the sentiment.”
We also say I love you with our computers and phones. When I’m at work or when they’re visiting their dad, the girls send me texts with pictures and videos, sometimes a video greeting or a story about something that happened, sometimes it’s a funny dance, sometimes it’s a goofy face or a picture of the dishes they washed. Staying in touch throughout the day keeps us connected and lets me know that they’re thinking of me, it’s really special and I treasure every one of those messages. I’m embarrassed to say that I don’t start those conversations nearly as often as the kids do, but I’m glad they do it and I appreciate their thoughtfulness more than they will ever know. (mental note: send the kids a silly picture tomorrow)
I have framed photos of the girls all over the house. I treasure the moments we’ve had over the years and having all those pictures on the wall keeps the memories alive. We haven’t had professional family portraits taken in Oh my goodness, have we ever? Shoot, I don’t think we have (mental note: hire a photographer one day) But I have tons and tons of photos all throughout the house that are a testament to the millions of memories we share as a family. They keep our stories alive and serve as reminders that we’re all growing and still building memories. Life is sweet, my walls are proof. I hope they feel loved when they look around and see their baby pictures, their dance recital, their Halloween costumes, their science projects, their silly poses…
I’m not a big fan of Dr Phil, but one concept I heard him explain many years ago has stuck with me and it rings true in so many situations. He spoke about a “love bank” and said that every good, happy, positive interaction places a little deposit into the love bank. Every relationship has one, and the balance in that account probably ebbs and flows over time. I like to think that every time my kids and I exchange messages, play a board game, enjoy a movie together, play a video game together, share a meal, cook together, visit the park, laugh at a joke together, make goofy faces, and share love, we’re making deposits into that bank. That way, when tougher times come along, we have some “credit” and there’s still a balance in our account to keep loving each other when things get difficult.
Over the past few years, with my oldest girls, I’ve learned that teenagers can be the most loving creatures on earth and also the most difficult to love. Those “deposits into the love bank” have been SO IMPORTANT in seeing us through their growing up years. I’ve never felt that any of my girls has been “lost” or disconnected from me or themselves in a horrible way, but there are some tough times and I’m pretty sure that our healthy “love bank balances” have helped.
I miss my older two immensely, since they’ve grown up and started building their own lives. Maintaining the love bank balance is harder when they’re not nearby, but we still manage. Regular texts, FaceTime calls and sharing on Facebook and even occasionally <gasp> phone calls keep us in touch. Normally I hate talking on the phone, but nothing warms my heart more than hearing my girls’ voices when we can’t visit.
I don’t know where this is going, really. We just finished Christmas at our house and had a fabulous time. I’ll admit, I might have gotten over-involved in one of the girls’ arguments but people do stupid things in the name of forcing others to get along. I do, anyhow. We played board games, laughed together, shared meals, exchanged presents and stories and laughed about silly things. These are the thoughts that have distracted me for the past few days since our visit ended and I promised myself I would blog more often, and the bottom line here is that I am the luckiest mama ever. Ever. And I kept my promise to myself to blog more often, see this is like the third time this year, right?