Show me a sign
I was raised in a family that didn’t really believe in outward signs of affection. While my brother and I always knew we were loved, our parents simply weren’t the sort of people who said “I love you” very often and hugs were handed out sparingly. That’s just who they were.
Which explains why I worked to become a person who’s quick to say ‘I love you’ and hand out hugs like they’re candy on Halloween!
Working to flip the script
Somewhere in my late teens / early 20’s I reflected on my childhood and made a conscious decision that I was going to do things differently. I wasn’t going to perpetuate the cycle of love-at-a-distance. I was determined that people in my life would always know they are loved.
I did a lot of work on myself. Then, I began to help others work on themselves. I became a certified Life Coach and since 2008 I’ve coached and trained others to be coaches. I’ve spent nearly two decades working in the field of personal development. And some of my most rewarding work is facilitating a weekly men’s group, offering a safe space for men to explore the full range of emotions.
In all my years of helping people become better versions of themselves, I can’t tell you how often the magic ingredient turns out to be a robust and healthy connection with our emotions!
Along the way, I got married and had two wonderful kids — first a son, then three years later, a daughter. Their mother and I separated when the kids were four and seven years old and it was one of the most difficult things I’ve done.
Since the separation, my kids live with their mother six hours away. When they were small, I’d see them regularly. I’d plan our visits around school holidays and long weekends in order to get as much time with them as possible. Especially in the summer. I have an acute understanding of just how precious time is and always want to take full advantage of every moment.
As they grew older, sports, friends and other extracurricular activities began to demand more and more of their time. Naturally this meant I had fewer and fewer opportunities to spend time with them. I’d often worry that we’d end up drifting apart — and that was the last thing I wanted.
I’ve always done everything I can to make sure that my children know I love them. I tell them over and over and I’m quick to put my arm around them if they get within hugging range. But despite my best intentions, I often end up going back to the fear that we’ll drift apart.
I want to share two stories:
This summer my son turned eighteen. I can hardly believe it. My little boy shaves! He drives. And he’s taller than I am (and I’m 183cm /6 feet)! He’s turning into a wonderful young man and I’m so proud of him. But the thing I’m most proud of? We both end every single phone call with ‘I love you’ and he’s not afraid or embarrassed to say it in front of his friends!
He graduated from high school this spring and to commemorate the event, I asked him to recreate an adorable photo of the two of us waiting for his school bus on his first day of school. We went to the same corner of the same street. The landscape looked very different and my son looked very different but thankfully — nothing had changed where it matters, without hesitation he held my hand, just like he’s always done!
In her younger days, whenever she would spend time at my place, my daughter made a point of leaving me a super sweet little note or drawing. She would put them somewhere she knew I wouldn’t see right away but would discover eventually. Then she started leaving small notes on the whiteboard in my office. Every time she would write one, I would leave it there. Now the bottom of the whiteboard contains a number of these adorable little ‘I love you’s’.
One day, the notes stopped.
If I’m being perfectly honest, I was heartbroken. I tried not to take it personally. I told myself that she was entering her teenage years now and things were bound to shift eventually. I did everything I could to keep myself from buying into the idea that my worst fear had come true — she was drifting away from me.
Then, about a week later — I saw it. Her most ingenious one so far. The reason I hadn’t noticed it was that it wasn’t there 99% of the time.
One morning, I stepped out of the shower and in the steam of the mirror, I saw her note to me.
My heart melted!