Our family has a code for saying “I love you” – without the words. You may know it. I’ll squeeze my child’s hand, arm or leg three times (This stands for “I love you”). Then he squeezes back twice (This stands for “How much?”) Then I give one large, long squeeze (representing “thiiiiis much”). Usually Terrell or I initiate this; occasionally, one of the kids might. And, of course, we all joke around with it sometimes by hardly touching the person for the third squeeze which generates a playful pouty expression. We do this basically anywhere we aren’t supposed to be talking. Just for fun and to express love.
We need to tell our children we love them – often. This does not have an age boundary. More often, we need to put life on pause for a few seconds, look in our child’s eyes, playfully or seriously and say, “I love you so much.” With a little one, we can scoop him up, nuzzle his nose and say it; we can lean over the table while he’s eating a snack and whisper it playfully; we can make the most of sitting at a stop light with our teenager; the opportunities are limitless. Often I get a child’s attention as he walks in the door or is heading out and say, “Hey, look here a minute…(Mine glance my way with a look of curiosity or that ‘what do you need me to do?’ look.) and then I smile and say, “I sure do love you – a lot!”
We need to tell our children that we are grateful to God for them. I was overwhelmed the first time I actually told my little boy, “I am so glad that God gave you to me. I am so glad that I get to be your mommy.” A serious look came over his face, and I could tell that in those few seconds he was actually processing this. Then his face lit up and we just hugged. I started this at bedtime, on occasional nights, when my children were preschoolers. Even now, I’ll tell our kids, “I am so glad that I get to be your mom.” Our children need to know.
We benefit from intentionally expressing these feelings. Sometimes the day (or several days) has really been challenging for my child and me. My child needs to know where she really stands in my heart, besides the current display of emotion I may share pertaining to the issue we are working through. Any words I say to her, I am saying in the presence of God; therefore, to tell her I love her or that I am grateful for her challenges me to cleanse my heart with God first. By first acknowledging gratitude for her to God refocuses me on the privilege of being her mom.
What if our relationship is strained? What if I feel all dried up inside, like I don’t have any thing to give? God has this covered! Go to Him. Often I pray: “Lord, fill me with Your love so that I can love my children with Your love.” Sometimes I’ve prayed this for the reasons above, but often it’s just because He’s got all that I need. And, while I’m praying for me, I pray this for my children. He fills them up and His healing, restorative love even helps foster my relationship with my children. No doubt about it, God’s love is our sustenance and our glue…so let’s share it with our children!