I made this poster for my kiddos for Valentine’s day today. It is Version 2. Funny story, actually, about how those three influence me creatively, and push me to be a better parent. You can read it below, or just enjoy the art!
So the other night, as I lay next to him on his bed, my sensitive and sweet little six-year old boy asks, “Do you like me?” I remain outwardly calm and tell him that not only do I like him, I LOVE him!!! Duh?! But this is not the answer he is looking for. He says that of course I love him, I’m his mom. But do I like him? I spend the next 30 to 85 minutes telling him every last thing I like about him and kiss him a thousand times. Then we snuggle some more and I wait for him to fall asleep, just like the old days.
The next day I give him cookies for breakfast and write him a lovey note in his lunchbox. Then, after he gets on the bus, I decide I am going to make him some art so that he will always know how much I really like him. In fact, I am going to make one for all three of them and then also talk to my girls that night to make sure they know I really like them, too. I have work to do. I’m all over it!
I design a simple poster with hand lettering that says: I don’t just love you, I like you. A few days later, I show him Version 1 (although at the time I didn’t know it was V1). “Look what I made you! It says that I don’t just love you, I like you”. He looks at my masterpiece for a second, then says to me, “That’s just mean, mom”. Oh no, no, no. It doesn’t say I don’t love you, it says I don’t just love you. You know, like the conversation we had the other night? But he darts off with his hockey stick. Later, I show my middle daughter. She reads it and says, “I don’t get it”. More explaining. You know, how I don’t just love you but I really like you and I like being with you. She says, “You should say all that, too, because then people will understand”. Really? Now I’m feeling like my poster sucks. Well, I’ll show it to my oldest. She always has good insight and reliably constructive feedback. Guess what? She likes it! After I tell her she’s my new favorite, we laugh about what those other two said (they are so clueless!). She leaves my office and I hear her say to my son in the kitchen, “Hey, I like you!” He takes out his mouthguard and says to her, “Yeah, mom already told me that joke”. Joke? Hmmm.
I decide to start over. It needs to be a bit more clear. Version 2 is better. At least they understand it and I don’t have to explain. But all of this work has made me realize something. I think my son, with his original question, was maybe just trying to get me to spend more time with him that night. And you might think, reading this, that I am so stupid because obviously that’s what he was doing. But as the mother, you just don’t want to risk it. Maybe there was a small 2 or 7% chance that he was feeling unsure? And that right there is why parenting is the hardest job in the universe. We never really know what is going on in their heads and what they are feeling in their hearts. So why not just go overboard? Better safe than sorry. Better too much than not enough. Right?
I am not talking about praise. By now we’ve all been very enlightened by the one billion articles out there on how too much praise is bad, very bad. I am not even talking about love, which we clearly know can be dished out in loads and loads and never be too much. What I am talking about is the very thing that is actually the hardest for all of us busy parents to give, and that is time. Simply, my son just wanted my time.
This episode was a poignant reminder for me that our kids really want to know that we like being with them. Spending our precious time with them is really how we show them that they are indeed fun and interesting. They are worthwhile. For me, I like finding those small moments when we are alone and can play a quick game of tic-tac-toe, or they can show me their best dance move, or tell me about their favorite show. Just small, ordinary moments when they have my full and undivided attention.
Another way of giving our attention is paying them a compliment. It makes them feel noticed. Starting sentences with “I like…” and finding something positive to say always leads to a nice exchange. This Valentine’s day, I am challenging myself to a year of compliments. Not just for my kids, but my husband, too. (Especially him, last one on the totem pole. If you’re reading this D, I like your funky hair today.) One compliment a day, or more if the mood strikes.
Thank you for reading. Keep up the good work! Have a Happy Valentine’s Day…
…and I like your smile. ♥