Monday, October 24, 2016

Parenthood: Week 175 – Do you love me when I’m mad?

Ollie didn’t run up to me.

Usually when I look into his classroom during pick-up, and make eye contact with him, he gives me a big smile and runs over to me, sometimes forgetting to carry his lunch box in his excitement. As soon as he gets out of the classroom door, he gives me a hug, sheds his backpack and lunch box, expecting me to carry them for me. Then he grabs my pointer finger, holds it in this hand and leads me out of the school.

Today was different. Ollie saw me in the doorway, and he smiled but that look receded quickly as he walked over to me. He didn’t take off his backpack or drop his lunch box. He only grabbed my finger when I offered it.

I asked Ollie how his day was and he didn’t respond. This isn’t unusual for Ollie. He’s never been one to recollect his day to me, but this silence felt different. As we walked through the playground, Ollie asked me a question.

“Daddy, do you love me when I’m mad?”
“Yes, I love you when you are mad.”
“Do you love me when I’m sick?”
“Yes, I love you when you are sick.”
“Do you love me when I’m sad.”
“Yes, of course, I love you when you are sad.”

I stopped walking and knelt down in front of Ollie. “Ollie, I love you when you are mad, when you are sick, when you are sad and when you are happy. I love you when you yell at me. I love you when you are sleeping and when you are being silly. There’s nothing you can do that will every change that” I reassured him.

I picked Ollie up and gave him a hug and I felt his small fingers reach around the back of my neck and his head relax into the nape of my neck. “I love you daddy,” Ollie whispered in my ear. “So, you want some bread? I got some pretzel bread from the grocery store,” I asked. Ollie enthusiastically answered, “Yes!” He jumped out of my arms and gave me a huge smile that was so big that it made his nose wrinkle.

I tell Ollie that I love him and that I’m proud of him multiple times a day. Part of me is a little sad that Ollie questioned my love, however a bigger part of me is proud that he was thinking about what love meant and felt comfortable expressing his thoughts and concerns.

The most important thing we learn how to do in this world is to be loved and to love others. In order to do this we must first learn to love ourselves. This self-love comes from every hug and “I love you,” we hear from our parents.

So go give your kid a hug and and say "I love you."  You may regret not saying these words enough, but you will never regret saying these words too much.

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