Nothing warms my heart like my daughter telling me, “I love you, daddy.” It’s simply the greatest. So you would think that if she said it to me five or six times in an hour my heart would burst with joy. Um, not really. I started to worry something was amiss.
You’ve probably taken a late night inventory? Everyone else is asleep. You're still awake going through a list in your mind. What did I do? What didn’t I do? What has changed about our lives?
We have been adjusting to my wife working full time, which has put added stress on me. But I couldn’t figure out how that related to my daughter’s need to convey her love for me. Then I ran out of responses since I didn’t want to parrot back, “I love you too” every time.
Taking the bull by the horns, or in this case the little girl by the hand, I asked her why she expressed her love for me so frequently. “Because I love you so much daddy, I just have to tell you all the time.”
Be still my heart. Yes, tears are welling up as I write this.
While I think she was sincere I wasn’t satisfied. Her profession of devotion still had an air of disquiet about it.
Then it hit me.
“Baby,” I said, “You know I love you and always will love you. Right?”
“Yes, daddy. But I like to hear you say it.”
So there it was. She wasn’t making a statement she was asking a question. “I love you daddy” meant “Daddy do you love me?”
Since first hearing Extreme’s More Than Words I’ve known it summed up my feelings about love. It's heart-wrenching lyrics speak of a man’s yearning for demonstrative, rather than spoken, love.
Isn’t that what we all want? To be shown that someone loves us. Isn’t it enough for me to do the dishes unbidden, bring my ladies flowers, and buy special treats for the Sabbath? Turns out some of us prefer to be told. Or perhaps need both. My wife and daughter are in the latter category.
Here’s the most interesting part. Since I started interpreting her “I love you” as a question and answering it in a focused, sincere way, her need to ask has diminished.
The exchange takes a moment. It creates a lifetime of relationship glue.
What about you?
When your spouse, child or parent says “I love you” do you know whether it’s a statement or question?
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