“I love you, too!” my daughter said the other day, after I told her how special she was and that I loved her. That may sound routine, but for us, it hasn’t been.
Our girls were each about two when we adopted them from China. From the beginning, I’ve been amazed at their resilience: between orphanages, hospitals, and birth and foster families, we were at least the fifth caregivers each of them had experienced in their short lives. In spite of those upheavals, they both adjusted quickly and well to our family…except when it came to displaying affection.
They both readily learned to play and to laugh (we’ve received compliments on that) and to enjoy our large dogs, who terrified them at first. Our Mother’s Day and Father’s Day cards tell us we’re the best parents in the world (though I don’t know how they know) and even that they love us. But spontaneous hugs and saying those three crucial words never came naturally. We’ve assumed that too many goodbyes at too young an age took an invisible toll.
Most of the time, it doesn’t really bother us. Their actions tell us they love us, and we’ve never stopped saying it ourselves. But when my daughter spontaneously and unexpectedly responded in kind to me as she skipped away that day, it caught me completely off guard. Like a wonderful, piercing arrow, her words split my heart and lodged there. I lost control and cried–partly because it felt so wonderful to finally hear it, but also because it signaled that her own healing from those early scars was nearly complete. Love is truly, truly, the most powerful force in the universe.
“Love cures people – both the ones who give it, and the ones who receive it.” –Karl A. Menninger