“I love you” was not a phrase my mother used. She felt that too often those words were meaningless and that we—my sister, my brother, and I—should know that she loved us by the things that she did for us. Physical affection, such as a hug, a touch of the hand, or an arm around the shoulder, was also out of the question—touching was not her thing. Growing up I felt more tolerated than loved.
Several months after the birth of my first child, I glanced at her and was overwhelmed both with love for her and sorrow for me. Tears came to my eyes as I wondered, “Didn't anybody love me like this when I was a baby?” Unfortunately no one came to mind. In that moment I resolved that one of my goals as a mother would be to insure my children knew their mother loved them.
Many years later, my husband and I were working on our marriage and discovered Gary Chapman’s book, The Five Love Languages. We learned that when you want to communicate your love to someone, use the language that speaks love to him or her the loudest, which might not be the language that speaks loudly to you. My mother’s statement about knowing that she loved me by the things that she did for me tells me that she feels loved when someone does something for her.
My husband and I studied our children closely to see if we could determine which one of the five languages of love really spoke to them. We used the following types of showing love as our assessment tools:
Then we looked for appropriate ways to express our deep love and affection for them. 15 years later I am confident that my children know I love them. How do I know? Periodically I ask them.
Within a couple of years of reading the book I had the opportunity to describe to my mother, in a non-threatening way, the premise of the book, what I thought her love language was, and that for me to feel loved I need to hear, “I love you.” Today I am confident my mother loves me. How do I know? Because since that conversation, every so often, she will say, “I love you.”
Do your children know that you love them? Tell me in the comments below how you show your children you love them.