The syllable was drawn out, long and low with a hint of whine, a precursor to a request that would invariably involve my stopping what I was doing within the next fourteen seconds.
“I love you.”
This started a while ago and has continued multiple times a day ever since. At first I thought it was simply my affectionate six-year-old’s attempt to test out the phrase, one he’s heard so many times, his way of attaching meaning to this sequence of words.
Then I thought it was his way of checking in. I was doing my thing; he was doing his thing. And though I was no more than ten feet away, he wanted to make sure I was still there.
And soon I noticed it would come along, in customary sibling fashion, when one of his brothers was in trouble, an effort to highlight the fact that at this exact moment it wasn’t him.
It took me a long time to come around to this particular sentence. Though I had heard the words regularly from my mother as a child, they never seemed to align with what I thought love was supposed to be—at least according to what I observed in others, read in books, and gleaned from the all-instructive late-‘70’s NBC television lineup and 92 PRO FM playlist.
So, for a long time this sentence gave me difficulty; and I concluded, perhaps with a sigh, that it simply was not for me. I filed it away, heard other people say it, show it and wondered about it; and though I know I felt it, I never really knew how to say it.
That changed, of course, once deeds matched words, and “I love you” soon became something I not only needed to hear but needed to say. Many people, of course, feel they don’t need to say “I love you” if they are showing it. But for me, given my checkered, truncated history with this sentence, I want to leave no room for doubt.
And though August’s history is not the same as mine, he, too, is figuring out this all-important sentence. He asked this week, “Mom, why do I say ‘I love you’ so much?”
I asked him why he thought he did; and he said, “Because it’s in my heart.”
Speaking your heart. A lesson from an exceedingly loving, uninhibited six-year-old.