You are ten months old today. I can’t count the number of times each day that I whisper to you “I love you”. A tradition that I started with your oldest brother, and that I carry down with each of you as babies, as toddlers, and as old as you grow.
You were not born knowing what “love” means, it’s another word to you- like “fish” and “dog” and “it” and “that” and “come” and “go”. It’s a word that rolls and buzzes against your cheek. It’s another word without meaning until you see it, feel it, and come to know what it is. It’s a word that you need to be taught, like every other.
What does this love thing look like?
It looks like countless kisses planted on the top of your head, on your cheek, on your neck as you giggle. It looks like a kiss on your forehead every time I buckle you into your car seat or stroller. It means a kiss on the cheek every time I hand you over to your grandpa, your daddy, your gramma. It means a kiss on your cheek in greeting every time they hand you back.
It looks like a smile on my face when you wake up, no matter what time of the day or night. No matter what I have on my to-do list that just got derailed by a too-short nap. No matter whether you can see my lips curl up in the dark of the night when I’d really rather be sleeping but when I hold you instead.
It looks like my hand seeking out your head, your shoulder, your back as a place to rest when you are near. A physical way of reminding you that I am there if you need me.
It looks like a reassuring smile when you fall and are afraid and I show you each place that you bumped and how each part of you is okay.
It looks like excitement as I show you new things, offer you new foods. Look for those songs that your brothers liked when they were small, so that you can listen to them too.
It looks like warmth along my collar bone where I tuck your hands to let the coldness fade after you’ve been playing outside. I welcome your cold touch against my skin, rather than shying away.
It looks like pulling you closer when you throw up, rather than pushing you away. It looks like understanding if it’s scary, and holding you near until I’m sure that you don’t need me to. And it means smiling to let you know that you’re fine, I’m fine. Cleaning you before I clean myself, before I clean anything else.
It looks like picking you up when you reach for me or when you cry out to let me know that you want to be held again.
It looks like all the tiny things that I do in order to show you your value to me. To show you that “love” is not an empty word. It is a word crammed full of meaning, of closeness, of heart and feeling.
Love is never just a word hanging empty in the air.