I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I should have been elated, doing the ‘happy dance’ around my living room. My husband’s company was honoring him for outstanding job performance which meant the two of us would be taking a trip … alone. But for some reason I was preoccupied by the fact that this would be the longest and farthest we’d been separated from our children.
There was packing to do and instruction lists to be made for my mother-in-law who was going to care for the kids in our absence. Yet, I could only think about one thing–and I could not walk out the door until I did it.
I had to write love notes to my daughters.
I had to tell them exactly what made me proud to be their mother. I had to tell them everything I found captivating, brilliant, humorous, and beautifully original about each of them.
And so I did.
I wrote down all these lovely things in a note that I taped to their bed frames before I left. I knew that when they came to bed each night my words would be there to console them—even though I would not be.
I’d like to say I did this for assurance purposes, but the truth is far more grave. I put the notes there just in case … just in case the unspeakable happened … just in case I never came back to tell them these things myself.
That was one year ago … yet my oldest daughter’s note still remains in her room. Several months ago she moved it from her bed frame to her special “memory board” — a colorful display she created one rainy Saturday afternoon. Among pictures of herself as a baby, swim team ribbons, and photos of family and friends, hangs my love note.
One day I walked by her room and saw her reading it. I don’t know if that was the first time, but something tells me it wasn’t.
That same night, as my daughter and I were having our nightly talk time, two gut-wrenching questions came to mind and filled my eyes with tears. Why must a weeklong separation be the reason I write my child a love note? Why must the fear of never returning home provide the necessary motivation to tell my child exactly why I love her?
After giving her a goodnight kiss, I called out one more “I love you” before shutting her bedroom door. But I wanted to tell her more. She needed to know more. She deserved to know more. And not because I am leaving. Please God, not because I am leaving anytime soon. Just because I love her, and she needs to know exactly why.
So I sat down and wrote these words:
To my dear daughter,
I love your kind, compassionate heart.
I love that you are tenderhearted and sensitive, and you cry when your heart hurts.
I love that you don’t stay sad for long, but instead try to figure out how to make your heart heal.
I love that you think about others who are suffering and try to figure out how you can help them.
I love to watch you create things with your hands … like doll clothes and doll food. I love the creative gifts you make for others using the supplies we have around the house.
I love to hear you read. It amazes me how far you’ve come. I love that you never gave up on something that was difficult.
I love how you teach your little sister so many things. You are a great instructor and role model for her.
I love how you are becoming more confident and sticking up for yourself and for others who are being mistreated.
I love to watch you gracefully glide through the water when you swim. I love seeing the determination on your face and your work ethic at practice.
I love how you support my dreams of being an author and provide me with inspiration to write.
I love it when you laugh so hard that you get tears in your eyes.
I love spending time together, just the two of us.
I was about to conclude my love note to my daughter when the compelling words of a dear blog reader came to mind. This reader has given me permission to share these powerful words about her father:
Our family was ripped apart by the inability of a man to say, “I’m sorry” and “I was wrong.” These are words I have made a point of saying to my loved ones. I have learned that words said in an unkind manner, even if they are accurate, are hurtful and warrant an apology. I find the words you write in your blog to be healing. In your own way, you are letting your children know you can sometimes be wrong, and you will find a way to make things right … and they are important enough for you to try.
I decided my child’s love note was the perfect time to apologize and admit my mistakes because I am certain that I don’t do it often enough. “I’m sorry” are beautifully healing words. My daughter needed to hear them. She deserved to hear them. My love note continued …
I am sorry I don’t always take time to tell you these things that I love about you.
I am sorry when I tend to point out the things you could improve on instead taking time to celebrate the million things you do right.
I am sorry sometimes I lose my patience over things that are meaningless and unimportant.
I am sorry for raising my voice when I could just use a normal voice.
I am sorry that sometimes when I get angry with you, it actually has nothing to do with you.
I will try my best to do better on these things that I am sorry about and that hurt your feelings. Thank you for loving me even despite my mistakes. Thank you for forgiving me.
I hope you know that being a good mom to you is my most important job, and I am thankful every single day that God blessed me with the job of loving you and raising you.
I am so proud to have you as my daughter. Nothing makes me happier than to look at you, talk to you, and listen to you. You are the greatest gift my heart has ever known.
I decided the ideal time to read it to her would be bedtime the next evening. I started by telling my daughter that I had written her a note and wanted to read it to her. She smiled and abruptly sat up as if she didn’t want to miss anything.
I started reading all the things I love about her.
Her face immediately shined. The way she smiled reminded me of the way her face looks when she holds a cat. In her eyes, I saw tenderness and love. I saw self-confidence and joy. I saw inner peace that only true connection with another living being can bring.
When I got to the apology section, she immediately dropped her head. Her hair hung forward, and I could not see her face. Although apologies are often uncomfortable for the giver, it appeared that being on the receiving end was difficult for her. That made me realize that I don’t apologize often enough. I continued reading although it was difficult for both of us.
When I came to the conclusion of my note, her head popped back up and her beautiful smile resumed in full force. I anxiously waited to see what she would say, but there were no words. My daughter simply leaned over and hugged me.
When I wrapped my arms around her, they felt lighter. A weight that I hadn’t realized was there had been lifted.
Without missing a beat, my child began our nightly discussion. As usual, our conversation covered much territory in ten minutes, but this time there was a renewed connection that had not been there the night before.
Not only did she know I loved her, but she knew every single reason why.
And that, my friends, makes for an incredibly soft place to lay your head.
If you have been with me from the beginning of my “Hands Free” journey, then you will know this was one of my earlier posts. But I share it today in honor of Valentine’s Day because I believe it is the most impactful and most important of all the “Hands Free” strategies I have ever described.
I make a point to write love notes to my children and my spouse often – describing in no particular order what I love about them. The reason I know these notes matter is because once they are read, they get displayed–but not by me. The same children who misplace coats, shoes, and headbands on a regular basis have managed to keep track of their mama’s love notes. And they read them (or have me read them) over and over.
Don’t wait another day to tell your children why you love them. Grab a piece of paper and make a list. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Just say what’s in your heart today. These words matter.
Thank you for being a part of The Hands Free Revolution … letting go of distraction to grasp what really matters in life. Your comments, emails, and faithful presence are my daily gifts.