I heard a lot of “I love you’s” growing up and I appreciated them. I gush them forth as well over my son. I am truly grateful even for the tough days of motherhood. They pale in comparison to the bathtub of tears I shed over seven years of waiting to see his face emerge from me. “I love you” is easy for me to say.
But when I became a mother I had to learn a new language that I think is even more powerful than “I love you.” It felt terribly awkward at first, the words came haltingly, unsure. I was afraid I was losing ground, losing authority. But the opposite happened. Out my son’s hurt heart Grace poured back to me. These are five words every child needs to hear from their parents.
“I’m sorry. I was wrong.”
I didn’t hear them from my father. Ever. He was a lawyer and would not acquiesce power or position to his children. The legacy of his unwavering stance was distance from my heart. My parent’s generation wasn’t raised to allow vulnerability before children. You didn’t admit wrong. Lose the battle. Lose face.
But the inside-out secret of these five little words means you don’t lose face. Or their faith in you. It opens up hearts. It creates closeness. It doesn’t put you lower; it elevates you in their eyes. When you are willing to crouch down to look into their souls and say, “You know, it’s not okay I screamed at you like that.” It resonates within them that you care more about their heart and being true than being on top. This creates vulnerability with them. They will want to come to you to pour out their hearts. (Instead of their friends or teachers). The bigger story you are teaching them is: “It’s not okay for anyone to treat you like that.” (A boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse, boss). You teach them to trust their instincts that it’s not normal or okay to suffer abuse.
Do you think they don’t know that you know and they know you are wrong sometimes? Do you think they don’t see you prefer to be dominant than to be understanding and loving? You gain by giving up.
You lose pretense. You gain authenticity. You lose hypocrisy. You gain trust and relationship. You lose the need to be right. You gain freedom found in love and stooping low. You gain their hearts.
And when you admit you blew it, you are wrong; it frees them up to do the same thing in their lives. With you. With their future spouse. With God. Children have tender hearts, when they see you caring, stooping, vulnerable—they identify with that. Much of their lives is feeling low, bottom rung, powerless. When they see you care more about them and their hearts than being dominant. They respond.
“That’s okay Mom, I forgive you.”
It’s “I love you” in a deeper language.
Happy Mother’s Day.