It was a year to the day since I had found out that the unborn child I carried had no heartbeat. That I was about to miscarry. And, on that one-year anniversary of a grief still so poignant, I made the impromptu decision to load my living, breathing children into the car and drive the hour and a half to the beach.
One at a time, holding back tears, I whispered the same three words into the delicately crafted ears of each child:
“I love you.”
I wanted to make sure each of them heard, each of them knew.
As parents, we serve, give, sacrifice, spend time, listen, and show love to our children in countless other ways every day. But they also need to hear that we love them, and we need to say it.
They need to hear it whether their grades lives up to our expectations or not. Whether they score and their team wins or not. Whether they look us in the eye or not.
They need to hear it even when they’re running late for school, pestering us with questions, or don’t want to eat the food we prepare.
Whether they’re worried, tired, lonely, or frightened, we want our children to be sure of one thing. They are loved.
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 ESV).
How we demonstrate our love takes different forms depending on our children’s behavior and attitude. A child in danger needs us to love them with strong words and quick action. Love sets boundaries. But the fact that we love our children shouldn’t depend on their behavior.
God doesn’t love us because we’re lovable but because he is a loving God. Even when our children are in the wrong and need to be confronted, we do so in love because we love them.
While they were swaddled, before they could coo, my husband and I began this basic catechism with our children:
“Who loves you? Mommy loves you, Daddy loves you…”
One by one, name by name, each grandparent, aunt, uncle, cousin, and sibling loves you.
“But who loves you most of all? God loves you most of all.”
That day on the beach, I was freshly reminded that each one of my babies, no matter how tall she grows or deep his voice changes, is a gift from God.
Each child is a gift, and each child needs to know he or she is loved.