Learning to Love Well

Ever done the whole “Love Language” thing? My main language is quality time, followed by acts of service. This means that if you want to show me love, you spend time with me. Or do something practical and nice for me.

It also means that when I’m trying to love somebody, I’m going to give them my time, and make them food or do their laundry. Most of the time, this means I feel like I’m being super loving to my family – I stay at home all day, and do stuff for them around the house. How much more could they be loved??!!

The only problem is that they have different love languages than I do. So I try to work on that, because saying “I love you” in French to someone who only understands English does not get you very far.

But something important clicked for me recently – Ben and I were talking about parenting, and I said something dramatic, like “I’m giving EVERYTHING for our girls!!”

As soon as I said it, something inside my head stopped me, and I thought, “Wait, no, I don’t. I don’t give EVERYTHING. I give most of my time, every day, but there are lots of other ways in which I could be less selfish, and love more.”

I’ve never thought about it before, but I think this may be one of the reasons why I homeschool. I’m giving our girls my best love by spending all this time with them. Why would I want them in school all day, and spend my time on something less important to me than them?

I think it’s a significant thing for me to realize, because it gives me permission to not be with them all the time. I can still be a loving mom, even if I do other things.

Kendra and Anika

Even more importantly, maybe I can hold time a little looser, and not see my love as being measured by how tightly I hang on to this time with them.

You know how people always tell you to enjoy every moment with your kids, because they grow up so quickly? This has always put a ton of stress on me, because of this whole “loving with time” thing. It’s as though I see the best part of my life as being with my children, and this precious time is slipping away, and I MUST HANG ON TO IT AND SOAK IN EVERY SINGLE MOMENT!!! Because even random strangers tell me to do so.

But I read an amazing blog post this week:

There is a difference between having an awareness that time is fleeting and having anxiety that time is fleeting, and the latter is born out of the same fear of scarcity that makes women panicky for their opportunities in life. There are only so many chances–get it because another woman will. There are only so many baby days–soak them in because you’ll never feel this happiness again. Lies, lies, fear and lies.

The truth is, time is moving just as quickly as it moved 100 years ago–as quickly as it moved for our mothers and their mothers and their mother’s mothers–60 minutes to an hour, 24 hours to a day.

Last year, after accepting that we were done having kids, cleaning the baby clothes out of the attic and tucking Lainey’s kindergarten projects in a safe place to save forever, I challenged myself on the language I use and the terminology that folds over and over in my mind and heart when reflecting on my kids’ childhood. They’ll never be this little again. Time is fleeting. We’re done with 6-9 months clothes. Toddler days are over, soak up the preschool ones! Never, fleeting, done, over. Scarcity much? I’ve worked hard to replace these words with powerful, progressive ones in my motherhood vocabulary–growing, moving, learning, blooming–and take great pride and pleasure in the opportunity of forward movement, the gift of time and more time.

Guess what? I get to love my kids and give them my time, even when they are adults! And there are tons of ways to love my kids well, that don’t involve all this pressure on time. I need to know that.

I need permission to let the days flow through my fingers with pleasure, instead of tightly grabbing hold of every single moment. I need to know that when I look back, this time will have been good, and I gave a lot to them, in the ways that mattered most to me and to them.

Anika started randomly listing all the things she loves about me one day. I think she knew I was discouraged, and wanted to cheer me up, so this is what she said:

  • “You let us play Civilization on the computer.” (True love right there, hey?!)
  • “You homeschool us when you could send us away to school.” (Melt my heart – she’s speaking my language!)
  • “You believe in Jesus.”
  • “You’re a good cook.”
  • “You love us.” (Maybe they’re getting the important stuff??!)

Then Anika asked Kaylia, “Why do you love Mommy?”

Kaylia said, “Because.”

She was quiet for a bit, and I wasn’t expecting anything more from her, but suddenly she said, “She prayed for us before we were in her tummy.”

My sweet girls, I don’t love them as well as I should, but how wonderful to be reminded that sometimes I get it right, and they feel it! And we keep trying.

Kendra and Kayliaphoto credit: Morgan Braun

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One thought on “Learning to Love Well

  1. This post really hit home for me. I think it’s such a powerful realisation to love someone in the way that they want, desire even, to be loved rather than trying to do or be everything to them. Great post

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