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10 Nonverbal Ways My Kids Tell Me They Love Me

Even if she doesn't always say it, I know my Peanut loves me.

So, the triplets are almost four. Which means they’re just starting to shy away whenever Daddy goes in for the hug. At least sometimes. And my nine-year-old? Forget about it. That train left the station years ago. The love train, that is.

Sadly, there comes a time when every kid reaches the unfortunate conclusion that it ain’t cool to tell Mommy and Daddy you love them anymore. We’ve still got some time yet before the triplets get there. But the mere fact that they don’t always return the favor whenever I tell them that I love them makes me realize that the day will come sooner than I care to admit.

As such, I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled for all the little ways they tell me they love me each and every day. Here are my 10 favorite:

  • 1. The numbers game: I play a game with the triplets — the same one I played with Alli when she was smaller. I ask them for a number between 1 and 10 and then hug them on that scale, 10 being the hardest hug. They delight in it, and, as hokey as it sounds, it helps them learn to count, too. And before bed, virtually every single night, my little guys run up to me after prayers and with a simple request. “Daddy, I want a number.”
  • 2. Prayer: Bedtime is a big production for us. And after everyone is squeaky clean, and all the teeth are brushed, and everyone’s in their pajamas, it’s time to read. And once that’s done, we pray. Nothing too elaborate, just the Lord’s prayer. But once done, we ask the triplets who they wanna pray for. And they almost always include Caroline and me. If that’s not love, I don’t know what is.
  • 3. Alli’s Freakout: Alli’s a bit tougher. She’s in the third grade and has fully crossed into the land where parents are great big dorks. And step parents? They’re like president of the AV club. But from time to time, she’ll do something that shows me how much she loves me. The latest example came two Fridays ago when I went on a solo 15-mile hike. Caroline told me that Alli was a nervous wreck about me, even on the verge of tears at one point when they couldn’t reach me by phone. “Mommy, I don’t want anything to happen to him.” I love you, too, Pookie.
  • 4. Rock Band: Alli always asks me to play Rock Band with her. Forget that I’m money on the solos for a second and consider this: she’s incredibly interested in the songs that I grew up with. Through them, we’ve established a bond. And whenever she asks me to play, I consider it her asking to spend time with me. And that’s a loving gesture, indeed.
  • 5. Hold You: Kirby is still going with “Hold you, Daddy,” whenever she wants me to hold her. And one prime place is the elevator, or elegator as she calls it. She used to be terrified of them and always wanted her Daddy to keep her safe on these perilous rides. The good news is that she’s not scared of elegators any more. The better news is that she still asks me to hold her whenever we ride on one.
  • 6. Bald Spot: Laugh all you want, but my son Jack always wants to see my bald spot. You know what he wants to do next? Rub it, like it’s a lucky touchstone or something. I’m not sure which is odder, the fact that he wants to massage my bald spot, or the fact that I delight in it, so. Hard not to when he asks “Does that feel good, Daddy?” Um, yeah. Better than you could ever imagine, Biggs.
  • 7. Stroller Fights: Whenever we’re at the beach, I usually start off the day with a four-mile run. And ever since they’ve been able to vocalize it, the triplets argue on who gets the honor of going running with Daddy. The great thing is that with three of them, I’m forced to go quite frequently. Wouldn’t wanna leave anyone out, you know.
  • 8. Bike Seat: Even before Caroline got pregnant, I was the go-to guy whenever we rode bikes at the beach (which is like every single day). And I revel in it. One of our trio sits in the bike seat behind me while I pull the other two in the cart. And while that, in and of itself, isn’t too terribly difficult, you factor in the backpack I’m toting and two chairs that are usually slung over my shoulder? It no lay up, my friends. Nor is it the greatest ride for the triplet who is sitting directly behind me, what with all that stuff hanging behind me. Which makes the fact that they fight for the honor even sweeter to me.
  • 9. Hiking and Camping: All of my children are obsessed with my obsession of hiking and camping. Some of the greatest camping trips I’ve ever been on are the ones that I’ve taken with Alli. I can scarcely wait to get the triplets involved. (Hopefully this fall…) Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but the bond that Alli and I share by the campsite sure feels like love to me. And the fact that my triplets want to experience that same thing? Well, that tells me they think we’re on to something. That makes two, I mean four of us.
  • 10. Videos: I’m big on making videos. And my kids are big on watching them. Their current favorite is the one I made at the beach last summer. I’ve embedded it below if you care to watch. The fact that my kiddos wanna see the same movie over and over, and the fact that said movie contains little more than footage and images of us spending quality time together tells me that they love their family. Which makes me happy. Because I love my family, too.

In what ways do your kids tell you they love you?

John Cave Osborne’s personal blog.
John Cave Osborne’s book website.

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