Covering parenting and child development issues
"Love can be understood only 'from the inside,' as a language can be understood only by someone who speaks it, as a world can be understood only by someone who lives in it." (Robert C. Solomon)
When my daughter was little, I had few opportunities to sneak off on my own for an afternoon, but when I did, I took my small purse. A symbol of independence, my small purse stood in large contrast to the diaper bag that was a travel necessity whether we were going around the corner or away for the weekend.
And more often than not, I returned with a gift of some sort for her. New clothes. A small toy. A book. Because away from her or not, I was unable to erase her from my mind, even for a short period of time.
Our little tradition continued throughout the daycare and elementary school years. Several times a week, I would leave “something in her seat.” A pencil from the school store. A library book. A cupcake. She delighted in the discovery, and I delighted in her excitement.
When my daughter was in first or second grade, I read The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. I was reading it at the beach, and so we ended up discussing it over dinner one night. Not surprisingly, my daughter’s primary love language was receiving gifts.
At first, I was concerned. Was I spoiling her? Was she destined to become the spoiled “only” that I’d vowed never to make her?
No, not at all. I got those little keepsakes in the first place because, despite our physical separation, my daughter and I remained connected. So, as my day wore on, it was only natural that I’d come across things that made me think of her. And when she found those things in her seat, she knew she was loved. And watching the delight on her face only encouraged me to continue the habit we'd both come to love so much.
Am I saying that she’d doubt my love if I didn’t bring her stuff? Not at all. Here, I’ll defer to the author himself:
Don’t mistake this love language for materialism; the receiver of gifts thrives on the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift. If you speak this language, the perfect gift or gesture shows that you are known, you are cared for, and you are prized above whatever was sacrificed to bring the gift to you. A missed birthday, anniversary, or a hasty, thoughtless gift would be disastrous—so would the absence of everyday gestures.
I was lucky. I found my daughter’s love language quite naturally -- quite by accident, actually. But for every parent who finds a child’s love language accidentally or instinctively, I’m guessing there’s a host of parents scratching their heads, trying to decipher the child who communicates differently than they do.
Particularly once our kids are teenagers. As it turns out, the book I read is intended more for husbands and wives than parents and children. Though the concepts transfer across relationships, they're discussed more directly in Dr. Chapman's other books, The Five Love Languages of Children and The Five Love Languages of Teenagers. While all of the books are written from an overt Christian perspective, the concepts stand on their own, regardless of your spiritual orientation.