Every morning, no matter how crazy the day has started, I give both my boys a hug and an "I love you" as they walk out the door to school. I know it's not always going to be this way. In more recent years, if the front door is open, my older one will insist on saying his goodbyes in the kitchen where no one who might be driving by can see his mom show him affection. Both boys know that I will always say this at the beginning of every day, even if I don’t get an "I love you" in return. And that's okay.
When my oldest son was just a baby, I went with some girlfriends for a weekend of some seriously needed girl time. Before I left, I wrote him a short note telling him how much I loved him and how lucky I felt to have such a great kid. I continued with letting him know how much our entire family and friends loved him too and to never doubt that someone out there wanted only the best for him. I tucked the note into his sock drawer and left for the weekend.
I guess when I think about it, I just wanted something for him to have from me just in case something happened. You never know. And, you never want those little people in our lives to wonder exactly what it was that you thought of them.
When I returned from my trip, I took the note and tucked it away in a desk drawer and told myself that I would always leave him something if I were traveling, and he wasn't with me. And so I did--long before he could ever read or understand why it was so important that I express myself in such a way.
Over the years, sometimes I have forgotten until the last moment to write a letter. So there are scribbled notes with simply an "I love you" or others that say "I'm proud of you" but there is always something left behind.
As he got older, he found the notes in his desk and asked me what they were. I told him that they were notes from me that he could always look at if he ever needed to remind himself that he was important or loved. Not being the most expressive kid in the world, he shrugged his shoulders and shut the drawer. And then, I started to notice it…every time he would get a letter from my parents, a greeting card, a thank you for helping from a friend or neighbor, a note from someone he cared about, or a postcard from my husband as he travelled, those went in the drawer too.
I don't really know if he ever looks at those. But there they sit in the bottom of his desk, slowly piling up. These are the only contents of that drawer, and I suspect he's holding on to them for some day in the future when he might need them.
When I look at my preteen son, I feel proud and happy. But I also worry about what the next several years will bring. As he starts middle school next year, I am sure he will experience many new emotions. There will be love, heartbreak, anger, loneliness, wonderment, highest of highs and quite possibly lowest of lows. It's such an awkward time and so confusing as you try to stay on the path to find out who you are and how you fit into this life.
There's a part of me that hopes when he goes through all of this, and if he doesn't feel like talking, this collection of notes will somehow give him support and affirmation that he is an important part of so many lives. I know it sounds corny, but I truly do believe that an expression of love, expressed in any way, carries us farther than we know.