Can You Hear Me Now?

(article published in the current Abilene Families )

Leaving the house on a recent afternoon, I turned toward the front door, even though I was leaving through the garage door. My husband had made a mad dash home at lunch to pick up something, and I was sure that since he was in a hurry when he left the front door would be unlocked. When I got in view of the door, I stopped and smiled. The door was locked. He loves me.

While I do know my husband loves me, I feel quite certain that thought was nowhere near the vicinity of his head when he locked the door. Oh, and ‘lest you think it’s just an absent-minded push-the-button-to-lock variety of love – oh, no: this is a turn around, find your keys, deadbolt the door kind of love. See? You’re feeling it, too, aren’t you?

As opposed to thoughts of romance and love as my husband went through this procedure, I can fairly accurately guess that his thoughts were more of the, “We really need to paint the porch” and “Why do we need a kitchen strainer in the front yard?” variety. But I heard him loud and clear. He was saying, “I do love you and want you to be safe and want you to be here when I return.”

I thought of this non-verbal form of love for my family when my husband expressed surprise that Son picked out an oatmeal raisin cookie at a restaurant. It occurred to me that my head is so full of everyone’s food, clothes, shampoo, toothpaste, hairstyle, friend, and music preferences that there is no room in my head for where I put my keys. Knowing all those things is just another way I say, “I love you”, along with the clean laundry and full pantry.

I think as a mom my nonverbal “I love you” is frequently hard to hear. Occasionally my “I love you” to my children is hard to hear because it says, “I love you too much to let you continue behaving the way you are” or “I love you too much to let dishonesty or irresponsibility go unpunished”. Sometimes my “I love you” is hard to hear because it says, “I love you because I truly never knew that embarrassing my children would be such a joy in my life. Thank you for providing that opportunity.” The eye rolls and ducked heads I receive in reciprocation are, I’m positive, yet another nonverbal “I love you”.

My children use nonverbal “I love you”, but at their age, it’s REALLY hard to hear sometimes. But I see it. A grin at my ridiculous jokes, joining me in singing off-key while we fix dinner, or humoring me while I squeeze them to pieces all let me know… they love me. I’m still trying to decode the message from the dirty socks that accumulate on my living room floor or the pile of dirty glasses in the bedrooms where food and drink aren’t allowed. But I’m almost positive it has something to do with how much they love me.

I believe – and this won’t take you long to realize if you spend any time at all around me – that a spoken “I love you” is vital. I make sure I tell each member of my family “I love you” at least once a day. When I stand at the doorway of my classroom in the afternoons, I hug or high five each child and tell them “I love you!” Sometimes I need the reminder as much as the child does at that point in the day! And sometimes, the child who hugs back the tightest or returns the “I love you” is the biggest shock of all.

No doubt, our loved ones need to hear that they are our loved ones. But if locked doors or knowing a list of favorites or (whatever way you say “I love you” without talking) isn’t saying “I love you”, then it’s just another set of words. As with pretty much all the rest of life, it’s a delicate balance: Say the words while you live the words. It shouldn’t be either-or, but c)all of the above.

At the same time, learn to hear the words that aren’t spoken. Notice what goes around you on a given day. Someone is saying, “I love you.” Are you listening?


Tammy M. said...

Excellent article.

Anonymous said...

And I heard my husband saying he loved me when he purchased and installed the push button variety lock so that I never have to lose and search for a house key again! :) Now I just need him to work out something for my car and classroom keys!!

Roxanne said...

I loved this. . .I will post my comment on my blog rather than hijack your comments over here. Great article.

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