❤ I love you, man
This is a story I wrote about love more than six years ago from my book, Snakes, Snails, and Puppy Dog Tales. I thought it was fitting to share it today, because personally, I am so tired of all the hateful comments on social media. And even though growing up, I was taught not to discuss politics or religion publicly (how times have changed!), I am including a bible verse with this post.
My older two were bickering and wrestling in the kitchen and they had started to kick and get rowdy. Even as I inserted my presence between them, they continued to flail at each other and hurl insults. I told them, as I separated them, one boy in each headlock, “You know, I read about a mom who had her kids sit down across from each other and write down five nice things about each other if they were arguing like you two are.”
They didn’t ask me where I read this tidbit; I’m glad I didn’t need to disclose the fact that I regularly peruse parenting experts’ websites and books for guidance, as well as frequently poll other moms.
I could tell by the exaggerated pained expression on his face that my oldest thought the idea was ridiculous. My middle son, however, slithered out of my grasp and sat down at the kitchen table. He immediately started writing on the mini whiteboard that we use to leave notes to each other, such as “I am on a conference call” (for my oldest who gets home from school at 2:35 or so a couple of days a week) or as a math homework scratch pad (rather than loose leaf notebook paper that ends up crumpled into balls, and thrown God only knows where, like any other ball in the house).
My youngest joined his brother at the table and watched silently, as he wrote without hesitation.
I had relaxed my grip on my oldest and now held him in a firm hug. “You can’t think of anything nice to say about your brother?”
“C’mon…look at all the nice things he has to say about you! He loves you!”
My middle son was writing fast and furiously.
“No, he doesn’t.”
“Of course he does! Just last night I heard him tell you, ‘I love you man,’ at the dinner table.”
“Hmmmmph!” My oldest wouldn’t budge.
His brother, on the other hand, didn’t miss a beat. His “love tank” must have been pretty full. He continued writing steadily until he had filled the white board with the requisite five items (“you’re cool,” “you’re sometimes nice,” “you’re awesome,” “you’re smart,” “you’re sometimes kind”) and he didn’t even get mad at me when I corrected his grammar from “your” to “you’re.”
Because his older brother wasn’t doing it, my youngest and I began singing my middle son’s praises.
“He has a loving heart,” I said.
My youngest looked at me as I continued, “He’s quick to forgive.”
“Yeah, he’s awesome,” my youngest joined in.
“He’s a good athlete.”
“Yeah, he’s awe some.”
“He has really good handwriting, too.
“Yeah, his writing is…awe SOME!”
My oldest started making grumbling noises, so my youngest and I tossed a couple of compliments his way.
“You’re good at sports.”
“Yeah, you’re a really awesome football player!”
“You’re an excellent student, too.”
For his grand finale, my middle son summed up our last two comments about his brother, and wrote, “you’re good at both” for a total of six compliments – 20% more than the requirement.
“I have to do my homework,” my oldest said, and disappeared into the living room.
Later, I asked my middle son, “How did you go from fighting mad at your brother to being so nice? It was like you flipped a switch and your love tank was full again.”
“It got full because you and my brother were standing there saying nice things to me.”
“Hmmmm…” I wasn’t so sure that’s all there was to it. I thought about when I have nothing but fumes in my own love tank, and how those are the times that it seems my boys are the most demanding. Because I usually don’t have anyone ‘standing there saying nice things to me,’ I can’t think of any other explanation than the simple act of being loving towards others is a way to fill one’s own love tank.
And until my kids realize that fact for themselves, I’ll continue cheering them on. I’m already their #1 fan.
“…since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” ~ 1 John 4:11-12 NIV