When Norrin was seven years old, I could count the times he spontaneously said “I love you” to me on one hand.
Years before, when I was waiting for Norrin’s words to emerge, I used to read him a story, kiss him goodnight and say, “I love you.” I wondered if I would ever hear those words back from him. I wondered if he would have any words at all.
Eventually the words came. And we prompted him to repeat many things. At bed time, I’d go through our ritual. Story. Kiss. I love you. And I’d wait. I’d wait for him to say the words every mother longs to hear. But I refused to prompt him to say, “I love you” back. I wanted him to say the words when he was ready and only when he absolutely meant them.
And now at night, I’ll read Norrin a story, kiss him goodnight and say I love you. Most night he says, “I love you, too.” Other nights he simply says, “Yes, I know.”
I’d be lying if I said “I love you” didn’t feel good to hear. But I don’t need to hear it from Norrin because I know that he loves me.
I know that he loves me when I walk in from work. He runs to the door to greet me with a smile on his face, his hands flapping with excitement.
I know that he loves me when he grabs my hand and asks me to read a story. Or when he simply sits beside me while I’m writing and rests his head on my shoulder.
I know that he loves me when he’s hurt or scared or sick and I’m the only one he seeks for comfort.
Some parents take “I love you” for granted. Some parents, wrapped up in their own chaotic day to day, ignore these declarations of love. Me? I cherish each and every time Norrin says it. And while the words are nice, they are not required. Because what I cherish even more is when he shows me he loves me.