My wife likes to compare me to the Grinch. Not because I hate Christmas, but because, according to her, my heart grew three sizes when my son was born.
I have never been a very affectionate person. I don’t say I love you enough to the people I care about. I am not much of a hugger, an arm-around-the-shoulder or cheek-kisser. It’s just not in my nature. Maybe I just assume everyone around me knows exactly how I feel about them so there is no need to express it physically or vocally. The word “love” slips out of my mouth less frequently than so many other four-letter words that when it does I almost feel the need to apologize.
I was worried my son would be like me, a heart noticeably small. Certainly, there are traits I own that I would gladly see reflected in my son. My undersized heart is not one of them. Not only did I never want him to wonder whether or not I loved him, but I also didn’t want his future wife or children feel distant from him.
This past Sunday, my fears were assuaged.
The headset crackled with my son’s loud laughter. He was only a few rooms away but he always insists we use the headsets when we play video games together. It’s our favorite way to spend lazy, rainy Sundays together.
“Okay Dad, I am gonna switch teams now so you won’t be able to hear me anymore. I love you.” With those words, the mic goes quiet for a split second before gunfire erupts in my ear as he begins to mercilessly kick my butt once again.
At that moment though, I was no longer concerned with winning the game. I was too busy beaming with fatherly pride. My son, who is often more teenager than first grader, just told me he loved me without any prompting.
It may seem like a small moment, but it was important. It was confirmation that my efforts to be more vocal about my feelings were working. It was some sense that, in spite of the million mistakes I make daily as a parent, I was at least getting something right.
I don’t know if my heart grew three sizes when my oldest son was born or not, but I do know, hearing him say “I love you” makes my smile three times wider.
“Love, and you shall be loved. All love is mathematically just, as much as the two sides of an algebraic equation. ” Ralph Waldo Emerson