Several years ago at church my pastor’s wife related a story to a married couples group about a strange spat she had with the reverend.
The couple hadn’t been married too long when one day she decided to give him a “sexy” surprise when he came home. In order to make the pastor feel romantic his wife asked him to sit in the recliner and began to massage his scalp.
Not knowing what was happening at first and semi-annoyed to have his hair put out of place the pastor said, “What do you think you’re doing?”
“I’m only trying to show you how much I love you, honey.”
“Well, “the pastor said, “I really appreciate it but I HATE to have my hair touched. How bout you massage my feet?”
As you can imagine that that sexy date ended disastrously for the couple but when the anger subsided they read a book together called “The Seven Love Languages” and they discovered that what blares “I love you” for one spouse does not necessarily say “I love you” to the other. One person speaks the love language of reclined scalp massages and the other one of foot massage.
This anecdote continues to deposit wisdom into my life not only as a husband but also as a father of three.
As a dad I’m working hard to learn the love languages of each of my kids. It’s generally been easy so far because my children are close enough in age (2, 6 and 10) that they still love a lot of the same things (Chuck E. Cheese, Toys”R”Us and movies) but I know it will get a lot tougher with age.
My son is growing into a big sports fan while my middle daughter could care peanuts about sports and is in her full blown Disney princess and Barbie doll stage. The chasm of tastes and hobbies are growing larger between them so my challenge is to keep up with what their passion points are and use them to articulate how much I love them.
Fathers and mothers approach this subject differently. My wife, for example, loves to frequently surprise the kids with new “cute” clothes or unique toys that she “discovered” at the store, a borderline free-spending practice that drives me crazy. I don’t like what she does but I stay out of my wife’s way because that’s her style and it works for her.
Thankfully my wife is also wise enough to respect my style of loving on my kids but that’s opposite what I hear from a lot of women. Many moms I know – and especially ex wives – complain that the father of their children “sucks” or doesn’t show the children they love them.
When I probe deeper I often hear women say this because they the fathers express their love for their children differently than they would. One of the wives in my family, for example, once came to me complaining that her always-busy husband is a terrible father because he tries to make up for his lost time with the kids by “bribing” them with toys.
“Are the kids angry that he takes them toy shopping?” I asked.
“Of course not, they love it,” she said angrily.
“Well,” I said to her, “respect your husband’s love language because it works for him. Your schedule lets you to spend time with the children and his doesn’t so don’t impose your way of loving the kids on him.”
As I told my family member this I remembered that my dad did something similar with me. I didn’t see my dad often because my parents were divorced and I lived with my grandparents but every Friday night my father would pick me up for the weekend and he would take me to buy a hamburger and treat me to a cool toy from 7-Eleven or The Little General store. Dad+Food+Toys equaled Love and that was good for us.
I don’t know what your child’s love language is but chances are that it will evolve. Like the pastor’s wife discovered about him, it may not even be what you think it should be. This process of studying your kids’ love language is a lifelong one and it won’t be easy but if you keep tabs on what your children’s love language is you will often find a way to connect with them no matter how old they are.
What your child’s love language? Please share your stories!