The “L” Word

Not long ago I found my son in a soaking wet t-shirt.

He wasn’t fresh out of the pool or a hurricane.  He was at school.  All the kids were playing together on the playground yet I noticed my son was the only one who looked like an NFL coach after a Super Bowl win.

“What happened to your shirt?” I asked.

“So-and-so rambunctious schoolmate” – not his words exactly – “spit water on me from the water fountain,” he replied.  I looked at the kid with a mouth capable of biblical deluge.

“Did you tell the teacher?” I asked loudly for benefit of said teacher’s ears.  My eyes scanned the lineup of public educators.

“Yes,” he said, and diligently pointed to the very teacher he told.

Catching glimpse of his little accusing finger, the teacher obliged with a slight confession.  “He did tell me he got wet,” she said to me, “but he didn’t tell me how.”

Now, I’m no kindergarten cop, but I do know that it’s highly unlikely a kid isn’t going to tell how something upsetting happened to him if he isn’t the culprit of it happening.  And what if he didn’t really tell her how it happened, does that mean he should still be sitting there in a wet shirt when he has two dry ones in his cubby?

“I see,” I replied and brought my son inside and changed his shirt.

Suddenly, said teacher appeared and spoke directly into the eyes of my son who was cradled now in my arms.  “Next time, tell me what happened.  If you don’t tell me how can I help you?  Ok, (my son’s name)?”  She paused then added, “I love you.”  My son, seemingly perplexed but believing, said he loved her, too.  I nearly keeled.

Stop!  In the name of love.

I can take a lengthy swallow and digest the last two infractions – the little white lie, the failure to simply change a wet shirt.  But, “I love you?”  Please.  Parent pandering aside, only say you love my kid if you mean it.  When you toss those words around like Tiger Woods, it’s like trampling on love itself.   People die for love.  People live for love.  Some say it’s all you need.  Let’s keep “I love you” for the authentic moments, the ones that truly reflect our deepest, heartfelt feelings.  Let my child understand love for what it truly is ~ don’t tell him you love him unless you really do.

Disillusionment should be saved for high school.

© Jennifer Dowd

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