It came as no surprise after reading Gary Chapman's book The Five Love Languages over a decade ago that I am "words of affirmation". The premise of the book is that there are primarily five ways that we feel and express love: physical touch, quality time, gifts, acts of service, and words of affirmation. Like everyone, I need all five of these things but words resonate with me. In high school I kept a shoebox filled with notes of encouragement and affirmation. My poor mother and sister are not "words of affirmation" so I watch them put forth much effort (initially like fish out of water) to "speak my language". My poor husband often will tell me he appreciates me and I answer with "why?" hoping to hear a little more. I know...pathetic.
It makes sense then that as I'm raising a family, we talk much about our words. If one of my kids says something thoughtless or hurtful, they get an opportunity to make it right. They sit down with the person they hurt and share two things they love and appreciate about that person.
If there is a silly squabble over a toy my kids will be seen holding hands and repeating, "You are more important than toys. You are my best friend."
Yes, they repeat it after me but yes, truth is also being ingrained. If nothing else, they roll their eyes at me and then giggle together about their silly mom. I'll take it.
There are days that I feel like I am correcting and instructing every word uttered: "You need to ask him with a kind voice this time." "If the neighbor boy talks about your sister that way then what is your job as a manly brother who fights for his sister and her honor? That's right- you tell him he can leave if he has mean things to say. Do not ever join in with them again." "No, he is not a 'meanie'. That choice wasn't kind but speak something truthful about him now."
Then the clouds part. The sun's rays shine through. And I experience a moment where all the training comes together and I get to bask in beautiful words being said in my home. Darla is a very natural artist, brimming with creativity the rest of us only wish we could muster. It is then so meaningful to hear her build up her brothers: "Oh, wow Hudson. I didn't think about drawing a spaceship like that. Mom, did you see his cool spaceship?" "Everett- I can tell that's a person! Good job with his eyes, Everett!"
It helps having an oldest child who shows love through expressive words. When I was going to be gone for a day last month she said, "Oh, Mom I just don't want you to leave. Whenever you are gone nothing feels quite right...oh, I just love you and I want you by me all the time." Sheesh- how am I supposed to leave after that?!
My favorite is the random affirmations throughout the day. Hudson squeezes Darla and says to me, "Darla is the best. EVER. You my best friend, Darla." She lights up.
Everett told me, "Bruthy give me this motorcycle. Him a good bruthy."
I was laughing with S. about how we've trained the kids when he came home this week and told me my butt looked great in my jeans and I said, "You're the third person that's told me that today."
"What?! Who else is telling you that?"
"Actually Darla and Hudson."
The sweetest result of our words has been my older three kids talking to Little Girly. Daily I hear them speaking truths to her and I get to watch her five month old self soak it up. "Baby- you are so pretty! Look how cute you are today. You're the best baby ever. Oh, we LOVE you. Good job holding your head up! I hope, I hope, I hope you stay here forever. You're so cheerful. Mom- she really is the best, isn't she? You are so fun for us Little Bear."
Equally as beautiful is watching Little Girl receive it. She grins and kicks. How powerful is Truth spoken. When we speak blessings and God's love over her, she is focused and intent on our faces.
Particularly, Hudson melts me as he tells her how beautiful she is as I get her ready in the mornings. He has heard me telling her how God has made her, how she is a blessing to our family, how God has a plan for her life- and I've heard Hudson using some of my words when he's talking to her.
Little Girly had her first experience with baby food this week and S. and I were laughing at our three little cheerleaders: "Good job! Good job with that squash,
Little Girly! You are so big. You're a big girl now. Wow- you are a good little eater. Mom, did I eat as good as her when I was a baby?"
I finally had to tell them to give some space and quiet down because Little Girly would grin at the encouragementand the squash would dribble right back out. Oh well, I suppose valuable things are being taught and instilled... perhaps as important as the skill of eating.