A few days ago I was driving home with the kids. I cherish our car time togetherness because they’re trapped in a safe space to express their feelings about their day, etc. My daughter, out of the blue, turned to me and said “mummy I really love you.” I paused for a moment and thought about my reply. “I love me too Izzie.” As I looked in my rear view mirror I saw a look of sheer perplexity that only Izzie could pull off…her eyebrows tilted down, her lips pursed forward, her bewildering facial expression brought a smile to my face. “What do you mean?” she asked, “Don’t you love me back?” At which point my eleven year old son, who had been sitting quietly listening to us, taking it all in (as he does) decided it was time to interject his two cents into this discussion. “Izzie,” he said with that older brother tone of voice, “you shouldn’t say I love you to someone just because you want to hear them say it back to you. That does’t make any sense.” And then it hit me. With every I love you that we release comes with it the expectation (to some degree whether conscious or not) to be loved back. “Of course I love you,” I said “but I think it’s also very important to acknowledge that we love ourselves too and we never say it out loud. Besides, we aren’t supposed to be saying I love you to someone just because we want to hear it said back to us, that’s not why we say it.” She sat there, quietly. I could see the wheels in her head turning. “I love you” I said. Without missing a beat, she looked up at me and said “I love me too mummy,” and smiled. It’s amazing how much the smile of a child can just fill your heart, and she’s got one of the biggest, best smiles I have ever seen.
The rest of our drive home became even more interesting for me when I asked the kids to tell me what they love about me, and then to tell me what they love about themselves. It was amazing what transpired. The revelations discovered not only about myself but how my children see themselves was powerful. We learned how easy it was for us to rhyme off all of the qualities we love about each other, but how difficult is was to do the same in turn about ourselves. We talked about why it was so difficult for us to list all of the things we love about ourselves. We talked about why it was important for us to acknowledge our love for self. As we continued driving, we decided that for the month of February we are going to reply to every “I love you” with an acknowledgement love for thy-self and that on our drives home from school each day, we were going to reveal one more quality we loved about ourselves.
My hope at the end of this month is to try and instil in my children (and myself) an awareness of self, an acknowledgment that thy-self doesn’t have to be perfect, but thy-self does have to strive to always be true to who we are inside, and that loving our neighbours starts with first loving thy-self.