He’s told me many times before.
The way he puts his head on my shoulder when he’s tired.
The way he reaches for me just before he falls asleep.
The way he screams when I leave, and runs toward me when I return.
The way he puts toys from his tiny hands into mine so we can play together.
When he asks me to read a book and “do voice” or sing his favorite songs.
The way he gives me a knowing look when he understands he’s being naughty and doesn’t want me to get too mad.
When he laughs at mommy being silly.
When he’s so mad and wants me to hold him, anyway.
When he used to reach for my face while he nursed.
The way he pats my back after a bath, sudsy and warm and cocooned in terrycloth.
When he tells me I have “so beautiful toes” after painting them with nail polish.
When he says “tank you mommy” or “sowwy mommy”.
When he wakes in the night and is instantly soothed by my voice and hand on his back.
When he is sick and falls asleep on my chest, resting to the rhythm of our heartbeats.
The way he looks to me, for me, with me.
My two-year-old has been acquiring so many words and sentences in recent months, I knew it was only a matter of time before he told me in words that he loved me. I would tell him I love him and my stomach would flip a little in hopeful anticipation that he would say it back for the first time. Then nothing. I remember thinking that it was going to come the one time I didn’t expect it.
We have been through some intense and exciting weeks of travel that extended us both in many ways (more on that tomorrow). I was in a rush to get him to bed because I was so tired and anxious to get him back on his regular routine and sleep schedule. As my husband and I got him ready for bed, tousled his hair dry with a towel after bath, snuggly and warm in his “cozy monster” pajamas, I gave him a big hug and kiss, put him in his dad’s lap for books and said “I love you,” as I always do before leaving them to the rest of bedtime.
Just before I turned to leave, his little voice calls out, “I wuv you”.
I froze. I will never forget the way the breath caught in my throat. The look my husband and I exchanged over his head. The way my heart both melted and exploded all at once. The tears that instantly sprang to my eyes.
I looked at him, this little love, my sweet boy and took it all in, this moment of abundant joy on an otherwise exhausting, messy, stressful day. The one time I didn’t expect to hear it back because I was tired and rushing and consumed with the horrors of the world, the strain of travel, the grind of daily life.
“Bye mama,” he then says with a wave.
He was already absorbed in his truck book. No big deal. This moment so precious to me, so routine for him. Because he’s loved me from day one and has always told me so.