THOSE THREE WORDS

Sometimes three of the hardest words to say. Sometimes said too easily. Some people say it often. Some hardly at all. But of the approximately 16 000 words the average person says a day, it’s these three that are the most important. And they only gain meaning when they are congruent with our actions.

I LOVE YOU.

Our children, and all the people we value in our lives, need to hear and feel these words,

Every…. Single…. Day.

I love you…. three words that build foundations, build a sense of safety, a sense of trust. Three words that heal, that connect. Three words that cross all boundaries, that root us, that pull us together. Three words that warm our souls, that give us a sense of belonging, a sense of purpose. These three words are inseparable from our actions. All our verbal and nonverbal communication gives our children one of two messages- you are loved, or, there are things in you which are not lovable. The seemingly unlovable parts of our children are all too often reflections of our own souls.
My father had a hard childhood, and it resulted in him being a hard man. Although he loved his children in his own way, those three words very rarely passed his lips. I love you. Even during my University years, I recall every telephone conversation I had with him, would end with me purposefully accentuating those three words to him- ‘I LOVE YOU, Dad’, and each time, I would wait, hoping and longing like a little child, desperate to hear him say them back. But he never did.

Parents, your children need to hear these words every day: I love you. No matter how foully your child may have behaved, how many doors your teenager may have slammed in your face, how many ‘I hate you’s’ may have been hurled your way, how many tantrums you may have endured or the exhaustion you may feel from just being a parent and getting to the end of the day- say it! In fact it is at these times when our children most need to hear the words.

I love you.

My Christian will tell me with deep sincerity numerous times a day, “Mommy, I love you”. Those words delight my soul each time I hear them. Rachel, on the other hand, is not quite as liberal in expressing these three precious words, and when she does, my heart clutches onto them. Whether they tell us or not, whether they’re being angelic or demonic, whether they are towing the line or tying us up with it, our children need to hear it. I LOVE YOU.

And they need to know our love is unconditional. I often tell Rachel and Christian, it doesn’t matter how naughty you are or how much you may disappoint me, no matter what you do, I will always always love you and nothing will change that. I may not approve of your actions, but my love will never change. Numerous times, following a ‘time-out-reflect-upon-it’ session, Christian will say to me, ‘Mom, it doesn’t matter what I do, you will always love me’. ‘Yes’ I respond, ‘I will always always love you’.

These three words are so powerful, and when cemented with actions, they build a solid and secure foundation for our children, and all our relationships. Our children will disappoint us and let us down (as we will them at times), they will behave in a horrific manner, they will be disrespectful and positively revolting on occasion, but if they know they are loved through it all, they will know they are worthy and valuable human beings who matter in this world. Our love towards our children and our full acceptance of them should never be based on their behaviours. That may seem obvious, but so often, without thinking, we withhold love as a punishment. If we consider our reactions to our children when they may not quite be doing things our way, we may realize that it’s far too easy for the emotional space we are in to impact upon our responses to our children. Does our reaction to their misbehaviour communicate rejection and turning our backs on them, even just for a short while, or are they absolutely aware that no matter what, in a world of turbulent tides, our love remains a constant?

These three words can never be said too often, whether our children are toddlers in playschool or adults who have left home. Say these words now, feel them, mean them with every inch of your being, and tell your children every single day. When you put your head on your pillow each night, ask yourself two questions- Have I told those closest to me that I love them? Have my actions given weight to these words and proved them true?

I LOVE YOU.

Make these three words sacred. Say them often. Say them with meaning. Let everything you do and utter both verbally and non-verbally leave no doubt in your children’s minds, and be branded across their hearts: I am loved, and because I am loved unconditionally, I am worthy, I am valuable, and I have a purpose in this world.

I LOVE YOU. Make these the most important words you speak each day.

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