My kitchen was a chaotic deafening hurricane. Six people in my little kitchen eating breakfast, finishing lunch-packing, and the decibel level quickly rising to unbearable levels. Two of my boys were both yelling for the sake of making noise, my toddler was whining for juice, my preschooler was singing, and my oldest was trying to tell me about a project due. I was flipping eggs on plates and wishing for coffee and quiet when through the cacophony I heard four little heart-stopping words, “Mommy, I love you.”
Words softly and tentatively spoken from a four-year-old child who had yet to bless me with that meaningful phrase. I turned around and saw Alex* peeking over the back of his chair, waiting for my reaction. I dropped my spatula and scooped him up for a hug and multiple kisses. He grinned shyly and wrinkled his nose at the affection. I had been dreaming of this moment for five months.
I am Alex’s third mother in less than four years. He has been loved but also abandoned. His trust has been broken too many times. He was very happy in his last foster home but he needed a forever family and he moved into our home to become our son. Every night (and frequently during the day) I would look him in the eye and assure him of my love. Every time he would stare solemnly back but not respond in any other way. I realized that love from Alex was something that I was going to have to earn.
I have taken ‘love’ for granted. I overuse the word: ‘I love these shoes!’ and ‘I LOVE chocolate!’ But after saying “I love you” to someone and not have it returned, I have realized what a privilege it is to be loved. I became more aware of how I treated Alex and looked for ways for him to understand that he could trust me with his love. Taking the time to stop and listen to him, looking him in the eye. Making an effort to play fire trucks with him. Holding him, rubbing his back or touching him on the arm. Asking him what he would like to make for a snack. Alex’s love became my ‘holy grail.’ And now that he has expressed it, I am even more determined to keep it!
In the middle of noise and chaos, I was able to hear a miracle: “I love you, Mommy.” Have you pursued your children’s love and treasured it?
* name has been changed to protect privacy