I’ve been married to the same man for 48 years. We celebrated this milestone in May of 2019. This has caused me to pause and contemplate the last fifty-one years. That’s how long I’ve known my husband, Don. I fell in love with him because he was handsome and romantic. One day he showed up at my door with a car full of roses. He had cleaned out a street vendor! But that isn’t why I’ve stayed with him.
We grow old and our beauty fades a bit. Our middles fill out and things begin to sag. We aren’t as beautiful as we were. Romance begins to fade too. Our energy and imagination aren’t as strong. So, his face and romance haven’t kept me by his side. It has been a choice.
Love isn’t just a feeling. When we’re young we think that’s what it is, but it isn’t. It’s a choice that we make repeatedly as we surmount the obstacles of living with another person.
Don has long since stopped bringing carloads of roses. However, I know he loves me because he serves me. He often goes out of his way to do something he knows I need to have done. He looks at me when I am talking to him. He takes the time to listen. He doesn’t always get what I am saying but he listens and tries. : ) He often puts his needs ahead of mine.
One of my favorite definitions of love came by way of my friend and mentor, Audrey Rindlesbacher http://audreyrindlisbacher.com/ – “Love is the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.” M. Scott Peck
Love is not just a feeling; it’s also a doing. It’s what we decide to do to nurture another soul.
When we’re parenting children, we must decide to demonstrate our love to our kids despite their growing pains and messes.
It isn’t enough to just say the words ‘I love you’. Our children need to feel our love through our actions every day.
Five simple ways that you can say I LOVE YOU daily
•STOP doing whatever it is when your child needs to talk to you. You may not have time to do whatever it is they need right then but you can hear what they say and respond. When you stop and listen it sends the very clear message that they matter more than the phone, the computer, the laundry, or any other thing.
•LOOK your child in the eye. We all want to know that we are seen and heard. Even children know when they don’t have your attention. When you look someone in the eye it helps you stay focused on them. It increases your ability to hear. It helps you stay present in the moment.
•LISTEN for understanding. You can’t hear what’s being said if your mind is busy looking for a solution to their problem or figuring out how to teach. Active listening seeks to hear for understanding. Teaching and problem solving can come later.
Most of us have had the unnerving experience of being in a conversation and knowing the other person’s mind is in another place. You’re sure they don’t hear you even as they nod their heads as if they do. It’s interesting how often moms and dads think they’re sending positive, connected messages to their children, when in fact, their children are experiencing this kind of disconnect.
•TOUCH them in an appropriate way, a pat on the back, a touch on the shoulder. Making a physical connection when another person is trying to share is powerful in building confidence and trust.
•REMAIN CALM. Our response to whatever is happening is in our control. If we explode, we choose to. I know this is hard to hear. As a recovered rager I know that it’s a choice and you can learn to remain calm.
There is a space between stimulus and response. Sometimes it’s so narrow that you would swear it isn’t even there. But it is and you can learn to recognize the moment of choice. You will still respond poorly for a time, but eventually, that space between stimulus and response will get wider and you will have time to choose a better response. I promise this is true!
When you’re busy, angry, or overwhelmed these simple things may feel hard. But they are a choice. You choose to work on them daily until they become habits. You choose to do this work in order to send better messages to your children.
When you make that effort and then consistently do them it will increase your child’s confidence in your relationship and in themselves. They will know that they are of value to you, that they matter. They will know deep down that they are seen and heard. They will know that you really do love them.