“Are you staying downstairs, mom?” my son asked me as I buried myself into work on the computer last night. I nodded yes, still engrossed in what I was doing as he got ready to go to bed. “Then I should say goodnight now,” he stated.
“Good night son,” I said, breaking away from what I was doing long enough to give him a hug.
“Good night, mom. I love you,” he said. And I smiled at the words.
My son has always been a loving child with a good heart. He is generous with his hugs, even for a boy who is trying to appear tough around his friends. When no one is looking, he will snuggle up with me on the couch, testing the acceptance of this action by slowly inching towards me until he is leaning against my arm. His sensitivity still has him leaping out of bed during thunder storms to be kept safe by me as we watch the storm unfold out my window from the safety of my bed. Of course, he is also a normal 9 year old boy who tends to get in trouble by trying to test the boundaries I set around him. He will stay out past the time I allow him to. When he isn’t getting his way, his anger is huge. And I have broken up way too many fights between him and his sister.
But lately, the words “I love you” have been rolling off his tongue effortlessly, and he tells me those words often as we are parting ways. At the end of each phone conversation, I love you. When he is leaving for school in the morning, I love you. Every night before bed, I love you. Even in times that I am less than happy with him. I love that he’s been telling me he loves me so much lately. And I often wonder how long those words will come so easy for him.
And almost as if he were reading my mind, he said something profound that caught my attention and made his proclamations of love mean that much more.
“Do you know what Mr. M told me last year?” he asked me. Mr. M was his teacher last year for 3rd grade, a man who made a huge difference in the Taz’s life by going over and beyond to help him as his teacher and friend. “He says that whenever he is leaving his mom’s house or hanging up the phone, he tells her that he loves her. He says that he never knows when the last time will be when he sees her, and he wants the last words he says to her to be out of love.”
At times we get so wrapped up in our own lives that, while we love our children, we don’t really see them. We can be guilty of taking them for granted. And then there are the times that we are so anxious for 5 minutes of quiet – to be able to finish our work uninterrupted, to be able to keep a clean house, to actually have some time to hear ourselves think – that we might be less than loving towards them. I have lost track of the moments when I have sent my son to bed when I was angry with him, or have parted ways with him and my actions were less than loving. I couldn’t even begin to count the number of times I have failed to say that I love him, or even just offered a kind word to let him know that I do care.
And here he stood before me, cluing me in on a wisdom that he carried inside this whole last year. He loved me. And he wanted to make sure that I knew. Every time he told me that he loved me, he was ensuring that if this were the last time we ever saw each other again I would know exactly how he feels about me. And I think my heart swooned right out of my chest. I broke away from my computer to give him my full attention, looking at the boy that had been growing right before my eyes even when I failed to see him. And I gave him an even bigger hug and a kiss on the forehead.
“Well, then. I love you very much,” I told him.
“And I love you more,” he giggled before bounding up to bed. I let him win that contest in the moment, knowing that if he loved me more than I loved him, he might just possess enough love for the entire world.
I told my daughter this story in the morning as we got ready to drive to school, almost tearing up at the preciousness in the moment. I unlocked her door and let her inside, turning on the heater to warm the frozen seats of the car. She pondered the story for a moment, taking in the depth of what her brother had told me.
“You know what that means, Mom?” she asked me. “It means that he thinks you’re going to die.”
I love my daughter too.