How often do you and your kids say I love you?

I read something recently in which a mom said she hardly said I love you to her kids and her husband because she didn’t want to cheapen it. “When I say it, it means something.” It made me reflect on how often I use the phrase.

Seth and I say I love you to the boys every time they leave the house, every time were leaving them, every time we we’re on the phone, sometimes quietly when we’re snuggling, every time they come out of their 30-second timeouts (you know, just in case they’ve confused discipline for a lack of love) and sometimes abruptly before the kids leave the room, just as a reminder.

“Hey!” They’ll stop dead in their tracks whether they’re walking or running,  turn around and look at us curiously. “I love you!” A grin will spread across their perfect faces and, if we’re lucky, we’ll get an “I LOVE YOUUUUUU!” back as they continue on their way or if we’re really lucky, we’ll get a big hug or a quick kiss.

I don’t know how that started but I’m guessing it was from one of those waves of overwhelming love and gratitude parents can get from simply watching a kid — who used to be just a dot on an ultrasound screen or a ball in your lap — run around in front of them. And over time, it became a “thing”; I got hooked on the way their faces lit up – and still do. Except today it’s not just the boys’ faces lighting up, the tides have turned.

Just this morning when Seth was in the shower Bot walked into the bathroom and started yelling.

“HEY! DADA! DADA! HEY, DADA!”
“What is it bud?”
“I yuv you!”
“I love you, too!”

And yesterday, while we were driving to the grocery store:

“Mama?”
“Yeah.”
“I yuuuuv youuuuu.”

Matty will do it in the quiet moments when we’re snuggling. “Mom, I love you.” And in the rowdy moments of wrestling and with a giggle, “Daddy, I love you!”

Who knows, maybe they too get those overwhelming waves of love and gratitude and we’ve just so happened to give them the sentiment to express those feelings. Maybe we’ve created a “thing” that others will say has cheapened it. And I don’t know, maybe it has. But I don’t want to live in a world where you can tell your kids you love them too many times. I don’t want to live in a world where I have to worry that telling my kids I love them will cheapen their idea of what love is.

So, my full apologies for any man or woman who falls in love with either of my boys, they might expect to hear “I love you” 200 times a day and they might tell you they love you when they don’t mean it but they won’t ever question whether their mom or dad loved them, and for that, you’re welcome.

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