This post originally ran in October 2011. My daughter, now 5, no longer tells me exactly how she wants to be loved. My 3-year-old little boy has started doing the very same thing. This time, I’m not suffering from mixed feelings.
It’s 7:00 am and I’m in the kitchen making my second cup of coffee.
“Psssst! Mom!” I hear a stage whisper coming through the closed door. I don’t want the grinder to wake up the kids.
It’s my 4-year-old, and she’s going to tell me how she wants her day to start. But she won’t open the door, not yet.
“Mom!” (still whispering) “I’m going to run in and I’m going to say “Good morning, Mom!” and you’re going to say “GOOD MORNING, LUCY!’ and give me a giant hug. And then you’re going to ask me if I had a good sleep. Ready?”
Of course I’m ready. We do this every morning.
She flings the door open and yells “Good morning, Mom!” as she scampers into the kitchen. And I boom in my best surprise!-I-had-no-idea-you-were-awake voice “GOOD MORNING, LUCY!” and I give her a giant hug. Because I always do.
(I didn’t used to.)
I used to see these ongoing rehearsals-for-real-life as an inconvenience. Must we really live each scene of our lives two times, Lucy and me? Do I need instructions everyday about how to say “Good morning”?
But these rehearsals weren’t just inconvenient; they made me feel downright inadequate as a mother. Doesn’t she trust me to know what to do? Doesn’t she know I love her? Doesn’t she love me as I am?
I used to wonder if a better mother would know these things without being told. While that question was on the table, I resisted complying with her wishes. I felt that each request was a judgment, and I couldn’t bear to not measure up.
It took me a long time to see my daughter’s stage directions as a gift. She’s only 4–young and sweet and full of giddy, giggly, hugs-and-kisses love. And she wants mine. And with these small requests, she’s teaching me how to show her love so that she feels loved. And I decided to play along. I love her and I want her to know it, to feel it.
So everyday I listen to my stage directions, and say my lines and dispense the hugs and kisses on request. Don’t get me wrong–we have plenty of unscripted moments–and many of those are far from sweet and lovey.
But in all these rehearsals-for-real-life, my daughter is telling me exactly how she wants to be loved. And I’m okay with that.