Your kid is running upstairs and you stop them: “Hey, before you go…” You’re watching TV and your daughter is walking into the other room: “Hey, I need to tell you something…” Your boys are wrestling in the backyard and the door opens and you come out: “Hey guys…”
They think you’re going to remind them about some piece of school work. Or criticize what they’re wearing. Or tell them to stop roughhousing.
No, you’re going to hit them with those words we can’t say often enough: I love you.
We’ve talked about this before—not just the importance of telling our kids we love them, but the fact that our tendency to share our feelings with them as they get older diminishes in an unfortunate way. What’s so unfortunate about it is that as our kids start to become people—with voices and opinions and plans and minds of their own—we tend to retreat into patterns of behavior from our own childhoods. Or we start to engage with them the way we engage with other people…or worse, how we think other people engage with us. With distance, reservation, judgment, caution.
It’s a sad state of affairs that our kids assume that if we’re trying to talk to them it’s only to nag them. Or to tell them to do something. Or to argue with them. Of course, with hormones coursing through our kids’ veins as they get older, there is a natural tendency for them to be the ones to create distance, or to be suspicious, or to get combative. But it takes two to double that distance, to confirm that suspicion and turn it into distrust, to turn combativeness into combat.
We can close that distance, or at least hold our ground and open our arms to them. That it catches our kids by surprise when we tell them we love them? When we don’t want anything but to put our feelings about them out there in the open, just so that they know, and they’re confused by it?
That’s our fault, not theirs. It says something about us, not them. And it’s something we have to fix, not them.