Mother’s Day and the Language of Love

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As we focus on Mother’s Day 2019, many of us are grateful because our mothers are still with us to be honored and celebrated in person. Others of us have lost our moms and the day takes on a different meaning than before.

After much reflection, I wanted to share some thoughts to see if you agree. As sons and daughters we are taught the language of love by our mothers. They are first to say, “I love you” when we’re little, and we respond back almost immediately with, “I love you, too,” so we learn that from them.

When we’re in elementary school, we are usually not shy about showing our mothers that we love them, although after a certain age, it stops being cool to be heard saying, “I love you” to our moms as we head out the door to play baseball. So they say, “I love you and be careful” and we say, “okay, bye!” Message heard and love returned without the words.

When we’re in high school and finding our first loves, many times mothers offer their love with helpful little tips that we either welcome or resent. Helpful suggestions like, “Be sure and open the door for the lady, stand up when a lady comes to your table or into the room,” and “tell the girl that she looks pretty” are phrases we’ve forgotten we’ve even heard when we were 13, but we heard them anyway. That was mom telling us it was okay to love someone else in addition to her.

When we marry, and we say “I love you” in a wedding in front of God and witnesses, we bring with us the love that we were shown all of our lives by a mother, aunt, grandmother, and we begin our own lives and ways we show love to our spouse based on the best examples of love we received growing up. It’s not lost on me, I’ve heard it before that it’s said that if a woman wants to know how her future husband will treat her, he need only observe how he treats his mother. I think the reverse is true as well. In fact, how any adult child treats their parents is a good indicator of how you can expect them to treat you and your future children.

But you have to do more than measure when a mother says, “I love you” to her child. There are far more ways it is shown, without someone ever having to use that phrase.

As an infant, you don’t know languages yet, but you know smiles, hugs, and feel the love as she cradles you gently in her arms. If you have a younger sibling, you see as a small child that that is how she held you, too, and you can see love in action, even when you don’t know the words yet.

When you throw your arms around her neck and don’t say a word, that says “I love you, Mom” to her. When you get too grown up and cool to say the words out loud—like at age 13 or so, and you lift your head up and just say, “Hey,” you are saying, “I love you” back to her. She knows.

If you get grounded for not coming home on time and you’re all worked up over it and you slam the door, and you get grounded, that’s love. No, you won’t feel like it soon, but one day you’ll realize she was saying, “I love you.” She understands you still love her, even if you slam that door, it’s okay. One day when you’re older, you’ll understand that all along she knew what you meant. Many of you go through life without ever hearing words of anger but that must mean that you’re not doing anything wrong, and you’re one out of 2,000,000 people. Mothers have to discipline their children as part of showing love to protect their children.

If your mother is still with you, you’ll recall seeing tears in her eyes as you crossed the stage to graduate, whether it’s kindergarten, first grade, high school, or college. You’re the reason she cried, yes, but it’s only because she was proud of you.

If your mother cried at your wedding, it was tears of joy as you truly reached a point of adulthood where you were starting your own family. The tears said, “I love you.” Your smile back to her said, “I love you, too.”

There are cards that say “Happy Mother’s Day” and there are bouquets of flowers that are arriving all across town, some delivered in person. Others are brought by delivery drivers. There are wrapped gifts, candies, and gift cards for lovely and thoughtful gifts of her choice that are flowing around. But, the best gift of all is when you can look into the face of your Mom, because chances are extremely good that she will be looking right back at you, smiling, beaming, and just being glad to see you. You might not be surprised to see that at least one of you has tears in your eyes.

But you don’t have to see tears to know that you’re loved. You’ve known that every day of your life so far. So, for this Mother’s Day, if you’re lucky enough to have your mother still with you, make that call, make that visit, and take the time to say the words out loud, “I love you, Mom.” They know you feel that way, but it feels so good to hear it!

And to all the Moms out there this weekend, the ones who we call that because they raised us, plus all the aunts, grandmothers, family friends and others who love you like a mom does in addition to your own mom, lots of love to all of you.