Every day as I leave work to come home for the evening, I call home to tell my wife that I am leaving the office. Well, most evenings. Sometimes I forget, but this particular evening was not one of those exceptions. I chatted momentarily with my wife and told her I’d be home in about 15 minutes. As soon as I had hung up, the phone rang again. My wife quickly said, “Could you stop and pick up a couple things at the store?” “Sure,” I said. She gave me the list of milk, eggs and a treat for our family night. We said our “see you soon” and I put my phone in my pocket. Moments later my phone buzzed my leg again. I straightened my leg to get the phone out of my creased pocket and pressed the gas pedal a little too hard in the process. I managed to hit the brakes before having an accident with the car in front of me and got to the phone. It was my oldest son telling me what he wanted for a treat. I gave an exasperated, “Fine, see you soon.” Then I hung up again. Just as I rolled into the grocery store parking lot my phone, which now sat on the center console to avoid further car hazards, lit up for a fourth time.
I thought to myself, “I just got off the phone with them. What could they possibly need now?” I answer, “Yes!?” My son Eli’s voice rang through the phone with a new level of brightness and happiness, “Hi Dad.” “Hi Eli,” I replied. Then… silence. For several seconds I heard nothing but heavy six year old breathing. I continued, “Did you need something bud?” He then hit me with a line that swept away all the irritation or stress of the day. He said, “No Dad, I just wanted to hear you. I love you.” I said, “Thanks man. I love you too. See you when I get home. “Awesome, see ya!” He shouted. Then, that was it. I sat in the car holding a dead phone to my ear with a grin on my face that reached from one ear, all the way to the other.
The best kind of “I love you”
I’ve found that the best expression of love is the kind Eli shared with me that evening on the phone. It wasn’t just the phone call or even that he said the words “I love you.” Rather it was the meaning and pure intent by which he expressed his love that meant the most. I’ve notice that the pure and simple expressions of love are usually the most well received by our spouses, our children and by anyone. We want to feel genuinely loved and appreciated. Three main elements of Eli’s expression struck me that evening and have helped me to connect at a deeper level with my family members.
1. It was spontaneous: Eli called just because. He didn’t need anything. There was no other obligation or motivation for calling other than to share feelings.
2. It was deliberate: He called because he wanted to. No one made him do it. His call was purposeful and intentional. He had a genuine interest in me and could not wait to talk to me again, so he made the effort to make the connection.
3. It was purely expressive: He had no thought of return. He wasn’t keeping score. He wasn’t concerned with reciprocation. He simply wanted me to know that he loved me.
New heights of connection
Since this experience with Eli, I’ve tried to apply these principles of expressive love and have experienced new heights in my ability to feel connected and to build up and guide my children in positive ways. This applies, not only to how we express love to our children but to our spouse and the other people that are most special to us in our lives. Everyone loves to feel like someone genuinely loves and cares about them. We live in a world of ulterior motives where people feel obligated and compelled to do and say certain things in order to get the results they want.
Making a greater effort to call my kids or wife in the middle of a work day, or write them a note has meant more than planned events or habitual daily expressions. My wife is especially mindful of giving spontaneous, deliberate, and expressive acts of love. She will often leave notes of appreciation and love for me in my lunch box, or take aside one of our children to tell them how much she loves them. Her day is often sprinkled with ongoing “I love you more then you love me” contests.
When we pay special attention to being deliberate, spontaneous and genuinely expressive, those expressions pierce our children’s hearts and build connection and bonds that cannot be broken.
Question: What can you do this week to be more deliberate, spontaneous and purely expressive with your expressions of love and affection?
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