What does a "thumbs up" mean to you?

images-8I dropped my son off today after school at his dad’s house, so he could go to his hockey game.  As he walked in front of my truck I rolled down my window and spoke loudly, “Good Luck tonight buddy, call me when your game ends and let know how the game went, I love you!”  He smiled at me and replied, “OK mom, bye!” and with his hand he gave me a thumbs up.

A couple of years ago I was extremely sad that my son could never say the sweet words that I so longed to hear from his mouth, “I love you Mom.”  He was 7 years old when my mind started to race about this.  I had never had the opportunity to hear him utter the word LOVE.  His brother on the other hand is polar opposite, he absolutely LOVES everything and everybody – he’s my little Peace and Love child!   He loves to hug, snuggle, kiss, and love.  He definitely makes up for his brother in this area.

Forcing the words out of Zach didn’t work.  He would always tell me, “Mom, I can’t say that word.”  Understand something, when he says that he can’t say that word, he literally means it.  Let me share with you an example.  I sing to my boys quite often.  The one song that I sing frequently is, You are my Sunshine.  I’m sure you’ve heard it…….

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
You make me happy when skys are grey
You’ll never know “Zach and Zane” (I always insert their names here) How much I love you!
Please don’t take my sunshine away.

I ask the boys to sing the song with me sometimes, you know, one big happy family (I know I’m a dork!!)  Oh well, I’m silly with my boys and it keeps us FUN!  So anyway, I ask them to sing and when we get to the line……….how much I love you……… Zach omits the word, he SKIPS over it.  He does this all the time – when he’s reading, singing Jesus Loves Me, etc.

I found myself asking Zach, “Honey, do you love me?”  He would always shake his head and say YES!  I know I’m sounding pathetic – I have to admit, I was insecure.  I couldn’t figure it out – it REALLY bothered me!  My expectations were not being met.  I was having a hard time accepting it and because he didn’t express himself like my other son Zane or how I saw other kids express themselves, I took it personal.  I thought….What in the world is wrong with me?  Did I do something wrong parenting him?  Hadn’t I raised both boys the same way;  to show love “properly”?

“Properly” I discovered was the lie that I was choosing to believe which had caused me the insecurity and unmet expectation.  Who am I to judge how someone else expresses love to another person.  In my desperate attempts to “make” him “tell” me he loved me, the way I expected him to, I was over looking how he was showing me love – the way he was capable of showing it.

I realized that Zachary shows love by being a helper.  He shows love by talking and visiting with me.  He shows love by wanting me to sit close to him on the couch and watch a movie.  He shows love by inviting me to go on bike rides, play hockey with him, shoot baskets, or by playing catch.  When Zach and I spend time together, he is telling me he loves me.

Through this process I have learned to open my mind and to be more accepting of others in all aspects of my life.  Just because others don’t do things the way I would necessarily do them doesn’t mean it is not done properly.  I am learning to become more tolerant, understanding, and patient.  I found that this doesn’t always come easy and natural for me – but I’m a work in progress.

As I worked through this insecurity I had with Zachary, we communicated and decided that it’s important to let those we love know that we love them.  We established a secret code – I guess you could call it sign language.  It’s a “thumbs up” and to us, it means “I love you.”

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