Simple enough of a concept. We say three little words all the time. I love you. I love cupcakes. I love him/her/it/this/that. I love football. The problem isn’t finding things to love. In fact, when we grow tired of that thing we spoke so hastily about loving, we replace it. We proclaim it across social media, we take photos of it, we hashtag the love right out of it. We want so badly for it to be a part of us and in turn create our identity. Sometimes the proclamation of loving those people, things, places, objects allows an escape from ourselves. When we escape the loving of ourselves, we lose out on the act of loving others. It is not in words that we love, while they are lovely, it is our behavior that defines the loving. Our actions show who we believe we are.
You may have seen the post that is floating around Facebook these days, a fun little game, ironically, about love. “If you know me well, you know that I love _______.” The idea is for your friends to fill in the blank and make a light-hearted list, then copy and paste into your own status, and so fill the internet with happy thoughts. I took this idea to the dinner table the other evening.
We are going to play a little game, I told the kids. You are going to say, ” My name is ____ and since you know me well, you know that I love ____.” We will go around the table and each person will have a turn to say their name and everyone will fill on the blank for that person. Are you ready?
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about what my children would say when it was my turn. I wanted to be skipped over, like a kid not being picked for kickball. It was worse to be in the team, because honestly, they last few weeks have been a time of change and transition and while we have been making family time a priority, we were feeling a little disconnected in our new life.
The kids thought it was fun… They said Daddy loved pizza, America, big trucks, hiking, the Army. Child #1 was said to love reading, Greek Mythology, Fairy tales, crafting, animals. Child #2’s answers from others were gymnastics, trying new foods, zebras, fairies, and making new friends. Child #3, according to us, had a heart for swimming, art, painting, baking, creating things to gift to others. Child #4 was pegged for loving hot wheels, legos, Lighting McQueen, fruit snacks and Mommy.
Then my answers from my people. Running, yoga, using the glue gun to make stuff, coffee, oh and wine. And then from the sweet soft voice of my little man, when asked what does Mommy love, he smiled and said, me. Mommy loves me.
Breakdown time. I love all of my children. But, I am guilty of loving in action more often with my son. Why? There is a list of reasons I could rattle off, but in all reality, he has gone through a lot, mostly during the time when I was a solo parent. He cried. ALL. THE. TIME. He was delayed in a lot of areas. During his first three years of life he had appointment after appointment, with therapists and specialists. I worked tirelessly as an advocate, knowing in my heart there was an answer, a solution to make things easier for him. He needed me most and I had the largest reserve of patience for his needs. Was it fair? No. Not at all. In that moment at the dinner table, on family night, with ordered in pizza, I knew I had chosen love. And he knew what those choices meant. He had received and felt them.
A few months before this I had read a book that rocked me. “Hands-Free Mama.” I used some birthday money from my Grammy to buy the teal colored leather bracelet as a reminder to myself, of who I wanted to become. I wanted to be the one who could say, “I choose love.” It was easy, most of the time to choose love over hate, over anger, over disregard. It was easy to say, I love you, or to love something that someone in my family had made or said or done. But, it was a challenge to choose love when I was tired. When I had one of my epic-failure days. When I just wanted a minute of quiet and heard, “MOM,” as an irritating echo. In those moments it was hard to put myself aside and choose love. Which meant to go back into the bedroom, for a few more minutes and not for a lecture about what time it was and how beastly they will be tomorrow if they don’t get rest, right now! It meant choosing to lay on the bed, cheek to cheek and see what their little hearts need to say, what I need to be open to hearing.
My bracelet is no longer teal. It is brown and you can barely see the words or the tiny heart. It has been joined with an array of bracelets that I wear everyday. Tangible reminders that rattle and ting as if to say, let’s not forget… to laugh, to pray, to choose love, have faith over fear, stay motivated because she who believed she could, did.
What if we just loved each other in tangible ways. In actions and not just painted pictures of adornment. In words of affirmation, in acts of service, in affection, in time spent together, in modeling behavior, the behavior of who you want to become instead of who you believe you are and fear will never be.
This challenge is great and not one to be accepted lightly. I have failed more times than I have succeeded but I am marching on. My life mission is large and not at my disposal most of the time, I dream very big and know there is a plan for my life. In the meantime, I will make deposits where I am able. The desire of my heart will always to be to create a family the knows they are loved and with that love can go out into the world and love others. The kind of love that is felt and remembered, the kind that builds confidence and encourages leaps of faith. The kind that isn’t earned or dependent on productivity but given freely despite all circumstances. It is the love that will be listed on the final family night, when those who know you well rattle off what you have loved, what do you want the list to look like?