My son has taught me something very important.
But let me back up. Growing up, “I Love You’s” were abundant in our home. What a huge blessing to always know you were loved! And of course, if someone said, “I love you,” you returned it with your own, “I love you, too.” If you didn’t, well certainly something was wrong. Either you were very angry with the person, or you yourself must be in the wrong because God commands us to love one another. Now, there were times I knew I wasn’t “liked” by a family member. Apparently God doesn’t command liking! But I digress…
Newly married, and even before, “I Love You’s” were always said between my husband and I. A source of comfort and joy. Music to the soul. The only time an “I Love You” would not be returned would be during an extreme argument or hurtful situation.
As children came along, “I Love You’s” were also shared. Shared in the morning, at bedtime, and at random times in between.
“I Love You’s” were always given and always expected by me. Why wouldn’t you return an “I Love You”? My feelings would be hurt if it wasn’t returned.
Until we adopted one of our sons.
He was 5 years old when we brought him home. Of course I loved him the moment I laid eyes on his picture. And as time passed, my love for him grew deeper and deeper.
But he wouldn’t return my “I Love You’s.”
At first, I expected this. He wasn’t adopted as a baby. Not only was he not used to the “I Love You’s” so familiar to us, but I couldn’t expect him to love me right away. Love seldom works that way.
Time passed. And passed some more.
And that’s when he taught me a very important lesson.
I can love without it being returned. I can truly give away my heart without hearing the words, “I Love You,” from someone I love so dearly.
My son is amazing. He astounds me with his compassion. But expressing love is very hard for him.
Six months after he was home, we were playing a game we now almost always play at bedtime. Part of the game is saying, “I Love You” to each other. Finally, and in a hurry to get the words out, he said it. “I Love You.” What joy! And he’s said it–for the game–every time I’ve tucked him in since.
Then one day, randomly, as he was running past me, now 9 years old, I gave him a mid-day, “I Love You, buddy.” Without skipping a beat, and running through the house, he said, “I Love You, too!” My heart soared!
Four years. I had waited a little over four years for that. Worth every single minute.
Now my son is 10. He’s been home five years this Saturday. I haven’t heard another random, “I Love You, too” since that moment.
But that’s ok. I know my son loves me. I see it in his eyes and in his smile.
I value the lesson he’s taught me. He’s taught me more about love and the love I give others than any words can. Simply by not saying it.
What a blessing.
And still, in my heart as I remember those three words strung together, I look forward to the day he lets loose his heart and tells me again.