My second grader has a little shop at his elementary school just before the holidays for students to purchase gifts for family members. You send in a few bucks and volunteers help them shop for siblings, parents, and other relatives. This year I gave him $10 to shop for his brother and sister to which he added his own money. On Christmas morning he proudly handed out his gifts. Two each to his siblings, one to his Dad. Then he gave me a necklace, bracelet, and earrings. Three gifts chosen just for his mama.
I had to hold back an ugly cry so we could direct the kids to their big gifts that were hidden around the house. But I definitely got misty and hugged that 7-year-old hard. I hadn't even really looked at the items because the details didn't matter. As someone whose love languages land between Acts of Service and Receiving Gifts (because I desire to feel seen and known) a gift given with true intention is the best of all.
I wore my pineapple earrings on Christmas Day and showed them off to our visiting family. Today I'm wearing (for the second time) my chunky heart necklace. I know that my son notices when I wear them and it makes him feel proud and appreciated. It makes him feel seen and known. We have a similar language. When our days are packed and time is short - especially for those who have bigger families, but really for all of us - helping our individual kids feel seen and known is an intention worthy of our attention. Among all of the personality quizzes available and trending recently, I think knowing your own love language and those of your family members is the most helpful. Knowing how you meaningfully receive love and how you can meaningfully show love to those in your home improves individual relationships and creates a more generous, caring, and connected atmosphere. If you want to confirm or establish your love language or those of your children (ages 5 - teen) check out this page. I know there were times in the past when I didn't enthusiastically receive, let alone wear, some crafted accessory that my son brought home from school. It wasn't for aesthetic reasons, but because I just didn't see how much it mattered. Now I know, for my oldest in particular, this is a bigger deal than painted noodles. Children will naturally give love in the way they want to receive it. In an otherwise very imbalanced relationship where we are always doing and giving to them, it is their currency to give back to us. My middle child deals in hugs, back scratches, and all things physical touch. My little girl who is two is still developing her language, but like many toddlers and preschoolers she loves to find a good rock. She presents them to me with such joy and I do my best to match her enthusiasm for a piece of asphalt from the street in front of our house. I know it is more than just a rock. Or a dandelion. They could be her love language. She also throws out "I yuv you!" like confetti and grins wide when we tell her how smart she is so perhaps she'll deal love in Words of Affirmation.
Making more time to be (really) present with your children is always a good goal. There are times and circumstances, however, that ultimately or occasionally put limits on our ability to give more time. In my experience, it matters even more then, how you spend the time you have and convey your affection. Key into how your child gives love so that you can reciprocate in a way that makes them feel seen and known.
I'm no expert, but I believe kids that feel truly recognized and appreciated grow up to be adults that are generous, empathetic, and have a heart for others. Mamas, if all we ever do is raise our children to possess those qualities, we have world-changing job responsibilities. Cherish the rock pile, hold a hug a second longer, and wear the macaroni necklace.