I made the bed one morning and discovered a note posted above the pillows. In first-grade phonetic spelling my youngest had scrawled, “I love you so mach tha my hed will eks powd.”
Our house never runs short of “I love yous.” I believe parents, especially fathers, should tell their children “I love you” as often as possible.
I grew up in a family of boys and learned to express affection through sarcasm, insults, and small bursts of violence. My mother followed along shaking her head for years until one day she decided to start telling us that she loved us.
It felt very strange.
My father remained silent on the subject.
When my first child was born I set a goal to tell her I loved her at least three times a day.
In the beginning I’d lift her up, hold her out at arm’s length so we looked straight into each other’s eyes, and, after double checking that no one could hear me, I’d quickly say,” I-love-you-I-love-you-I-love-you,” knocking off the task for the entire day.
Over time I grew comfortable telling my daughter that I loved her, and I learned why my mother suddenly threw caution to the wind and started expressing her feelings for her children. I believe the love of a child is like no other love in this world.
I became an expert at “I love you” by the time my son was born. He surprised us a month early and with two holes in his heart. I learned a lot about the health system fast, but no one needed to explain why I felt so scared for this child.
My son is quick to ask for an “I love you.” The other night after I silently tucked him in and turned to leave he asked, “Uh, Dad? Forgetting something?”
I climbed into his bunk. He wiggled his way until he hooked into my curves. I whispered that I loved him more than he might ever know and he squeezed me back in quiet recognition.
At night the oldest still finds us to tell us she is going to bed. She always asks for a hug, a kiss, and an “I love you.”
I can often trick the youngest into talking in her sleep. I’ll ask, “I love you more than?” and she’ll answer, “Mashed potatoes and steak.”
When we stay overnight in the small house I grew up in I need to share a bed with at least one child. My mother once offered me her bed so I’d get a good night’s sleep. The offer felt strange, and I slept in my old bed with my son.
As he fell asleep next to me I looked ahead to when he would be my age and I would be old. All those years from now I believe he’ll feel as comfortable climbing into my bed as I do climbing into his. And I hope his two sisters will join him, and that they’ll all tell me, at least three times slow, “I love you, I love you, I love you,” as I go.