January 20, 2011

The need to articulate.

Joshua always asks me the same question: "Auntie, who is your best friend in all the children?" With the fair heart of a parent I tell him that I don't have favourites, but unsatisfied he begs me to pick just one. I tell him that I love each child the same even though I love them all for different reasons. Reasons that make them each unique. He looked thoughtful over that explanation for a long time and then with the upmost sincerity looked up at me and asks "Then Auntie Laura, what is it about me that makes you love me?"

..."Why do you love me?"...

I let the question hang in the space between us for only a moment- we must be quick to answer such a question because if we are quick to respond it affirms that we know why we love. How often do we point that out to people? Let me answer that- Not as often as I think we ought to. It makes my mind wander...does my friend know why they are one of my best friends? Does my family know why I love them as people, or do we take that love too easily for granted since we have the easy bond of mother to daughter...sister to sister? I ask myself as Joshua asks me, have I really made it evident to him why I love him- his character, his talents, his growing heart? I answer quickly because I don't want him to think that I just love him because he is in the choir and I am his Auntie. I don't want him to believe that love is simply created by circumstance.

And so over dinner I talk to him about how I love the way he values people, and I want to give him an example so that he knows what I see in him is real. I remind him of all the times he has greeted me and never missed saying hello to people in a church, or his Aunties and Uncles when they come in from a day off. I tell him I believe he has a God-given talent for drumming, and that teaching him in music I have seen him improve in not just playing but playing musically. He has a way of making people feel loved, and the list of things that make him special go on...

When I am done he turns to me without missing a beat and says "Auntie Laura, let me tell you why I love you okay? I love you because you are beautiful. I love you because you have a beautiful voice when you sing." The flattery is sweet and I smile, but then the real reasons come: "I love you because you make time to play with me and you play with me properly. You are not mean and we can just have fun. And I love you because you correct me when I do something wrong, even when I am frustrated and don't want to hear it you don't let me carry on doing the wrong thing."

How often I have underestimated a child's ability to verbalize what they feel. Often the hours spent on drawing their best picture for you speaks greater volumes of love than the note they write you on the back of the picture. I can tell they love me by the way they hug me, greet me, look at me captivated by my teaching, or ask me to stay up and talk with them at night. But it touched my heart especially to hear the reasons articulated, and it reminds me to articulate the reasons we love someone much more often than we do so that they never ask "why?".