"I Love You"--Was That So Hard?
The hardest part for any parent is saying goodbye to their children.
I’m talking about simple,everyday goodbyes—The goodbyes when we go to work, or when we drop them off at school or daycare. Goodbyes over the phone, or over the Internet, or through text.
Regardless of anything we do, not a day passes by when we don’t say goodbye.
But how often do we follow that “goodbye” with the words “I love you”?
Ask yourself that simple, honest question. I’m pretty sure that whatever answer you come to, you’d be surprised.
Fact is, many parents—especially fathers—never utter these words. Often times parents think that it is not necessary. “Oh, they know I love them”. I know way too many fathers who downright detest saying these words, simply because it apparently ruins their macho image. In many cultures, it is simply not said—It’s as if parents expect their children to be born loving them. And in the Western world, often the newest toy, money, or a combination of both becomes the substitute for those 3 words.
My own father, a man of pride and traditional Filipino values, rarely uttered these words. And on the very few times that he did, it would be after he had scolded us for doing something wrong. “I’m telling you this because I love you”. It took me awhile before I realized it made sense in a way, and only after I became a parent.
My sons are young. My eldest is 5, and my second is 2, and my youngest is 4 months old. My eldest just started grasping basic speech patterns about a year ago (he has a diagnosed speech delay.)Both are too young to fully understand the power and impact behind those 3 words. But my eldest knows how to say the words "I Love You". How?
Because despite their lack of total understanding at their age, I tell them “I love you” everyday, more than once, and most especially after the words “goodbye, I’ll see you later”. The more they hear the words, the more they can connect words with the actions and emotions that they feel when I told them so--and often times, these involve signs of overwhelming affection such as a big hug, a kiss (or 2, or 3), a quick merry-go-round in my arms--the kind of actions that evoke happiness. As such, they begin associating the words "I love you" at an early age with feelings of simple happiness.
Children are not born programmed to love. They are born with the ability to love unconditionally, but only after they have been shown the tenderness of love first. And what better--easier--way to start than by telling them you love them?
Humans are creatures of habit. We learn through doing. How can some of us expect a child to love us when we rarely, or even never, show how love feels or say what love means?
Working 12 hour shifts, 7 days a week is admirable. But saying you do it because you love your family and this is how you show your love is downright idiotic. Heck, it even comes off as a silly excuse not to be home.
Dads, remember: That truck/ipad/iphone/PS3/Skylanders can make them happy...for a while. The big house, nice ATV, backyard pool are nice to have too, but that too can only make them happy for awhile. Trends and likes come and go. Dads are forever. If we don't start making our children feel what love should feel like, if we don't start showing them what love is supposed to be like, and instead shower them with material things, we risk losing that child forever.
Ask yourself: Do you honestly want to remember a snobby, stuck-up, electronically wired teenager, chugging Red Bull, thinking he/she knows everything there is to know about life, reared on having every "gimme" and every dollar we earn given to them? Or would you rather remember the child who always held our hand, called us everyday, and actually needed daddy and saw him as the most awesome man in the world?
Sure, they'll grow up, some to be very successful someday. I know many Indian, Chinese and Filipino friends who are highly successful thanks to the labor of their parents. But when I ask them what fond memories they have of their parents when they were kids, they shake their heads. Their common response? "Not much, I mean dad was never home, he was always working". Or worse, the Filipino version: "No, he hasn't been home in 10 years, working in Saudi Arabia/Singapore/Insert random foreign country. But I know he loves me. He sends me money every month."
In my personal life, I do not own many things. I am not rich, highly educated, or street savvy. Heck, I don't even have a decent car. This lack of material things often bothers me, because I want what's best for my family and especially my children.Sometimes I wish that I could have all the material wealth I could have, enough for my sons to live off long after I'm gone.
But when I pick my sons up from daycare, when I feed them dinner, play with them, watch TV with them, give them their baths, change them and hug them until they're asleep, I know I can never give up these moments. This is their childhood, and I was a part of it! I woke up to make their bottles, fix their lunches, sign their books. I wake them up sometimes in the morning,and when I don't have classes I take them to daycare. I hug them, kiss them and tell them I love them everyday.
There's this one other dad at the daycare my sons go to. Whenever he comes to pick his son up, he always has this grumpy look on his face. He's tired from a day's work. His clothes indicate he works in the trades; he makes more money than me, as is evidenced by his car. This is probably a dad who works hard to provide for his family, out of love and dedication.
And yet, when his son sees him, he gets no reaction. Flat. The boy just says "Hi dad", grabs his bag and goes.
I come up to the daycare parking lot and lock my child trailer that fits 2 to a post. It's freezing outside, common here in Wild Rose Country. The moment I start walking towards the daycare and my sons see me through the window, I see them jumping. The moment I walk through the daycare doors, I see them running, screaming "DADDY! MY DADDY IS HERE!" and I bend down and hug them both.
I look at the other kids in the daycare, and they all have this puzzled look on their faces. As if they've never seen this kind of thing, this public display for parental affection before.
I may be poor financially, mediocre mentally, sub-par physically, but thanks to my children, my heart is as rich as it ever will be. And I know their hearts are just as rich too.
An infant can die due to lack of love and human touch. It’s called “failure to thrive”, and is a documented medical fact. That’s why newborns and infants constantly need to be cuddled and talked to, or else they can potentially die.
A child needs to be loved before he or she can love. Let's show them how. And how much simpler and easier is it to start than by saying "I Love You"?