We say "I love you" a lot in our family. Words of affirmation are big for me. And I think that with as much loss as my first two kids have experienced, they need to hear those three words continuously. Those most important words need to burrow deep into their wounded souls and heal over all the pain they've experienced in their short little lives.
An old friend that I follow on Twitter says that when she sings lullabies to her 1 year old son at night, she finds herself only being able to sing "I love you. I love you. I love you." over and over again. In this broke down world, I don't think there's anything more important for a 1 year old to hear above anything else.
A few months ago a friend shared that in his family they add three words to "I love you". They say "I love you...no matter what". When I heard that, I knew it would become a Diaz family mantra. Judah and Addise are just catching on to those extra words. Now sometimes when I say "I love you" I'll let it hang in the air a little long and they'll sing out "NO MATTER WHAT". My heart soars!
Today, driving home Addise was beyond tired. She'd played hard at church all morning with her bestest friends and she needed a nap. Twenty minutes ago. We'd missed the window of "no meltdowns between church and home". It was going to be a grueling 15 minute car ride home. I was trying to ask her happy questions about church and her friends and her lunch, yet everything I asked her was met with defiance and anger. She was determined to be argumentative and negative about EVERYTHING I was saying to her. This went on for about 5 minutes. Just for kicks, it went a little like this:
Me: Addise, how was church?
Addise: No mommy. No talking church.
Me: Addise, you don't tell mommy no.
Addise: No mommy telling me no.
I was exasperated with how to correct her attitude/behavior and still safely drive my minivan (that's right folks...swagger wagon). I whispered a breath prayer and the Holy Spirit opened my mouth and I sternly said, "ADDISE!"
Addise: Yes? (in her soft sing songy voice)
Me (still stern): I LOVE YOU!
Addise (slightly softening): Mommy, you love me?
Me (a little more tender): Yes, I love you.
Addise (sweet as sweet can be): Mommy, you love me...no matter what?
Me (humbly): Yes, baby, I love you no matter what.
...peaceful silence for the rest of the drive. I couldn't believe it.
I had a similar experience a few days ago in the car with Judah. He was whiney over something silly but it somehow linked to his wounded past. His reaction was nonsensical (which should have alerted me to his tears being historic). He wouldn't stop after all my sane tactics.
So I yelled at him. I mean I really let him have it.
I was so angry and frazzled and done. Well, that didn't work (DUH!). He started SOBBING and again the gentleness of the Spirit nudged me. I apologized to my son. I asked him to forgive me. He said he did. But he didn't stop crying. Ugh. So the Spirit pushed a little more.
Me: Judah, do you need me to tell you that I loved you.
Judah (crying): Yes.
Me: Judah, I love you...no matter what. I'm sorry buddy.
Judah: Thanks mom. Love you too.
With those six words, he stopped crying and flipped a switch into happy Judah-boy mode. I think he saw a bulldozer on the side of the road and he was eager to tell me about it.
It's so easy to think that though my kids have been home with me for close to two years that their wounds are already healed because of all the love and intention we've poured into them. But these past few days have been reminders of how desperate they are to still hear...