I put my daughter in the car and climbed into the driver’s seat of my car. My husband was standing there, and he said it first, “Love you, Maddie, love you, Momma.” I threw the phrase right back at him. And then I heard, “Mommy, wait!” as my son ran outside to catch me. I rolled down my window, and he gave me a kiss and said, “Love you.” It sounds funny. All this pomp and circumstance for a simple one-hour trip to the gym, but we never leave one another without saying those words. Saying I love you is a priority for our family, and I will never tire of hearing it.
Growing up, I remember my parents saying I love you to us and each other, but not often. Honestly, it didn’t really stick out in my mind until after September 11th. Following that day, that tragedy, saying I love you became a real priority for all of us. I knew they loved me, but the casual and occasional uttering became consistent and something we came to expect to hear at the end of a phone call or when leaving my parents’ house. After 9/11, we all came to the realization (in a very tough way) that life is precious, and we need to ensure we let loved ones hear it at each and every opportunity.
Saying I love you doesn’t always come naturally, though. My mom often tells the story that after I was born, she would encourage my dad to say it to my sister and me. He did, but it took some coaxing, she explained. I think there was hesitation simply because he is a man, and “talking” to a baby wasn’t necessarily in his DNA. But now my dad is a softy. He tells us he loves us every chance he gets and has even teared up a few times in the last couple of years to boot.
Similarly, I remember freaking out when I told my husband I loved him for the first time. Saying it to a family member was one thing. Saying it to someone new was entirely different. I was scared, but why? I knew I did, so why wouldn’t I tell him? Once I ripped the Bandaid off, it was easy. And now, 11 years in, we never let a day go by without telling one another. I believe it’s one of the keys to our relationship, and it helps that words of affirmation are my love language.
When I first laid eyes on my children, I knew I loved them. I know it’s not always that way, but for me, it was immediate. Now not only do we repeat these words each and every day, but we are also teaching them the importance of them as well. Kids are easy that way, though. They only know love from the very start, and it’s our job to ensure it stays that way. My daughter, who is almost two, muttered something that sounded like “ruv you,” and I melted. My son, who is 6, is already engrained with the fact that if we love someone, we tell them every chance we get.
Three little words mean so much and can be just what someone needs to hear to turn their day around. So whether it’s your partner, children, parents, friends or grandparent, etc., try it on for size. It takes about 21 days to form a habit, and I can confidentially say that saying I love you will be one you won’t want to break.