The other night I was putting my three year old to bed and he asked for me to get in beside him and snuggle as he often does. In these quiet, dark-lit moments I tell him “I love you so much!” and this night was no different.
“I love you,” I whispered but before I could say the rest he chimed in.
“I know, Mum,” he said.
I tried not to let the fact that he hadn’t said the words back bother me and instead relished in the warm, delicious, snuggles he still allowed me to enjoy. There we laid, soft-bellied, together, his gentle snores beginning, while I watched the rise and fall of his little chest. Then, just as I was about to gingerly climb out of his bed and make my way out of the room, ninja-style to ensure I didn’t wake him, he roused from his slumber, lifted his head and said, “I love you big-time, Mum” rolled over and fell back into a deep sleep. My heart melted as I quietly closed the door and made my way back downstairs to the living room, a smile on my face, growing wider as I descended each stair. This phrase, “I love you big-time” is something that has developed recently, spilling out of my giggling toddler, at times often for no specific reason, and brings both my husband and I much delight to hear. It is at these most unexpected times when it is uttered that fill my heart the most. The “I love you” part isn’t new, we have been lucky to receive this heartfelt praise from the time our little man had learned first learned to talk. The “big-time” part is the humorous little anecdote that has become a new steady fixture in my son’s vocabulary.
You see, it is as if my husband and I have a silent agreement, by which we both make a conscious effort to tell our son we love him, as often as we can. It was never really discussed or planned, it just simply happened once he entered our lives and our hearts. We do it not because we were raised in unloving homes; we were both raised by loving parents, my husband’s family dynamic complicated by divorce but filled with love the same. I think it is more that we feel such an overwhelming adoration for our son and are so grateful to finally have him in our lives that, every time we are around him and he makes us laugh or smile, we feel compelled to say those words to try and to make him understand how much he is loved. We both don’t want him to ever question his place in our lives or family, and don’t want him to ever question whether or not he is loved. That is not to say that bombarding someone with the phrase “I love you” will ultimately accomplish this goal but it certainly will not impede it.
I most definitely did not grow up in a loveless home, nor did my husband. However, both being the youngest of the family, and each having two siblings quite a bit older, I think we both can relate to the feeling of knowing you are loved but not hearing it regularly. I knew (and know) my parents loved me and when I was very little, I was showered with a plethora of love and attention from not only my aging parents but also my much older siblings, their friends and spouses, etc. Then as I grew up, so did they, my parents having two teenagers-turned-adults to deal with but I remained still a child. Weddings took place, children, whom were now called my nieces and nephew, were born, and my family took upon a whole new dynamic. Instead of simply being “Mum and Dad”, my parents were now “Nana and Grandpa” too. My own grandparents, the parents of my own, were long gone and a mere distant memory from my infancy. Where did I fit into all of this? I was still a child myself, and now I was technically an Aunt as well. My parents were not finished being parents, but were now toting the title of Nana and Grandpa, instead of Mum and Dad. The “I love yous” were now reserved for the babies and toddlers whom I quickly began to interact with as siblings instead of their Aunt.
I was in the midst of elementary school and there was no way I was going to be called “Auntie”, “Kylie” would do just fine. As they grew, so did I, loving them like the younger siblings I never had, watching them grow into adolescents and then finally adults themselves.
For my husband, the endless “I love yous” he utters may come from a slightly different place, although equally well-intended. I think, and I say “think” because we have never officially discussed it, that his intention, conscious or not, to make sure our son knows he is loved stems from his own father’s lack of affection. I don’t mean to say that his father never showed him any affection and of course, I wasn’t there to witness any of it, whether true or not, but I do know that you can’t shower someone with hugs and kisses and “I love yous” when you are never around. After his parents divorced, my husband was left with a mom who loved him, a step-father (if you can even call him that), who tolerated him but made it known that did not wish to ever be a father, and a real father who popped up now and then but whom generally he went years without seeing or knowing. I suspect growing up with the difficulty of never knowing when you are going to see your Dad again could be what fuels my husband’s deep desire to be the best father he can be for our son. If that is the case, I thank my estranged father-in-law for his lack of fathering because it did indeed have a pleasing adverse effect; my husband is an amazing Dad. I couldn’t have asked for a better father for my son.
So although vastly different from my upbringing, my husband’s bears resemblance to mine in that he too knew he was loved but did not habitually hear the words. I like to believe that may be part of what drew us together. That somehow the universe knew that together our slightly cracked pieces could fuse together to create an unbreakable bond, erasing the minor dents we acquired along the way. Even though, like everyone else, we may each be a little broken in our own way, it seems that the joy of creating our own family and determining what kind of parent we each want to be has been the glue that has filled the cracks, mended the rips and tears and sealed the holes. It has what has made our relationship stronger, our parenting strategy better allied and is what fuels the genuine stream of endless I love yous.
About the Author
Kylie Blenkhorn is a first time mom, living outside Vancouver, BC. As a part-time stay at home mom to a hilarious, spunky, three year old little man, she splits her time between puddle-jumping, fort-building and pajama parties and working as a paralegal for a non-profit public education advocacy organization. Her writing has been featured on The Good Mother Project, Scary Mommy, Pregnant Chicken and Mamalode. You can also find her on Instagram and Twitter.