I make my kids tell each other they love each other all the time. Like several times a day.
All week long.
Just now while they are sitting peacefully on the couch watching a show together. I made them pause it and tell each other they love each other.
Sometimes they jump into it, with true heart. Sometimes they are annoyed by me. Sometimes they are annoyed by each other…but do it anyways. And those are the most important times.
I grew up in a household where love was shown in different ways. I never doubted my parents’ love for me but given the difference in their upbringing from Romania in the 1950-1970s, it was rarely expressed in actual words. It was expressed through hugs and discipline and good, warm food on the table at 5:00pm every night. It was expressed through special gifts and lots of photo-taking and early curfews. It was expressed in a million ways but those three words weren’t the usual.
But I am a person who believes in words. I am a writer and a reader and a communicator by profession. I know the power of the perfect sentence. The expressed emotion. The “I love you” when it’s least expected.
And I want my kids to know that power, too. To use it without hesitation, embarrassment or inhibition. I want them to express their feelings loud and clear. I want them to take those words with them as their relationship grows over time. As it goes from the safe, comfort of our home to life beyond it. I want them to be able to say “I love you” to each other from afar. When they are in front of other people. Even when they are angry with each other. I want them to find the comfort in those words that I find in them. To know it means they are there for each other. That they care for each other. That they will (hopefully) be best friends forever. Long after I am gone and the badgering from their mom stops.
I hope they still have those three little words.
And I hope they use them often.