Love Notes for My Son

How did leaving a note in a 7-year-old’s lunchbox become so tricky?

Photo credit: iStockPhoto

By Paget Norton

A few days ago, I decided to leave a little note in my almost 7-year-old son’s lunchbox. The “You’re the best kid ever” kind of note. He is growing up so quickly, I thought I would take those splinters of moments to let him know I love him even when I’m not with him. In the coming years, he might not want me to be so openly expressive, but I figured I’d get to that when I got to it. Not today. Not yet.

For now: one sweet note. Short. No complicated vocabulary. A small offering for that piece of my heart walking around outside my body.

A few days later, I asked him about the note.

He had received them. They were sweet, but when he said it, the mama-love sweetness spilling all over his sunflower seed butter and jam sandwich hadn’t been so sweet. It wasn’t okay.

“Mama,” he said, “It’s just private.” My outpouring of feelings was supposed to be private. Instead, it had been embarrassing. Kids gently made fun of him, but he got it, and I got it, too.

“So, I can’t leave you sweet notes?” I queried, my heart quivering.

It was a resolute NO.

“What about a picture? Can I leave you a picture? Toothless [from How to Train Your Dragon]?” I know he loves dragons, and he loves Toothless.


“A maze?” He loves mazes and creates his own, rife with dead ends and squiggly lines.


“What can I leave?”

He took the opportunity. “A toy.”

I imagined buying him some cheap toy from CVS or Walgreens. Then, many toys. Toys were definitely not my love language. I like a well-intentioned gift, but they don’t light me up in the same way some good quality time does.

“You want me to leave a toy in your lunchbox.” I paused. There was a reason for a toy. It certainly wouldn’t embarrass him, “ . . . so you can make the other kids envious?”


His yes was met with my ugh. No love notes. No sweet or silly pictures. No mazes. My mind scurried.

“What about a joke? Can I leave a joke?”


And jokes it was. I told him, “When you receive it, you’ll know it’s just my way of saying I love you but without a sweet note.”

He nodded. My heart melted.

A friend of mine suggested jokes were his love language. I think it might be true.

The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman are a very simple but effective way of looking at how people like to give and receive love and what has the strongest impact on them. These love languages are:

  1. words of affirmation — for example, “I love you.”
  2. quality time — for example, giving someone your undivided attention
  3. acts of service — for example, lending a helping hand
  4. physical touch — for example, holding hands, massage, etc.
  5. giving gifts — for example, flowers, trinkets, etc.

Here is an online quiz to help you figure out your love language.

For my son, jokes are part of words of affirmation. He also loves physical touch. I know if we snuggle up, he feels very loved.

Armed with his love language plus a new awareness of his friends, I sought out a joke to leave in his lunchbox. Here is what I left:

Why is 6 afraid of 7?

Because 7, 8, 9.

That was my love note. Not exactly how I thought it would be, but that’s how love is: unexpected, funny, tricky, but when it lands well, it melts through the heart and leaves one a bit better than before.

This story was previously published on The Good Men Project.

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A Parent Is Born

Because the moment a child is born, a parent is born, too.

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