My son had been treating the chair in the hotel lobby like a jungle gym for a good five minutes before his leg slipped between the leather seat and the twisted branches that made up the rest of it.

Terror washed over his toddler face as his thigh and hip followed. With a panic in his voice that suggested he was sure the chair was swallowing him whole, he strained, “I love you, mommy! Mommy, I LOVE YOU!”

“I love you, too,” I assured, fighting laughter while freeing his spindly little body. “You’re not dying, I promise.”

He’s 10 now and more often than not, my shout of, “Bye kiddo! I love you!” as he dashes out to meet the bus is returned with a simple, “Bye!”

Occasionally we’ll exchange this same send-off several times, my “I love you” growing louder and more emphatic with each round. Eventually I annoy him into reciprocating, which he does with a wry smile before closing the door behind him, presumably relieved to have gotten that over with.

I’m not saying this whole “loving our kids” thing is one sided. I’m just saying there may be evidence that we pay our dues up front. Let’s hope they remember all the ways we’ve said “I love you” when the butt-wiping tables have turned.

Such as…

  1. Ingesting anything a slobbery-fingered toddler thrusts in your face at meal time.  
  2. Willingly carrying a person who peed their pants.
  3. Allowing a known bedwetter to sleep next to you.
  4. Doing your best impression of a coat rack every time you leave the damn house.
  5. Swallowing blinding rage when you get smashed in the face with a head that has all the cushioning of a brick wall.
  6. Catching puke with bare hands. Voluntarily. Instinctively even.
  7. Stuffing poop-streaked undies into your coat pocket because there’s nowhere to throw them away.
  8. Sitting in the backseat with a screaming baby even though riding back there makes you want to vomit.
  9. Nursing a baby outside when the temps are below 50 degrees.
  10. Canceling a much-anticipated night out because someone who chose to lick the floor of the post office has a fever.
  11. Surrendering your sweatshirt to the child who takes an unplanned sunset swim with all their clothes on.
  12. Voluntarily giving up the last bite of your pie despite strategically eating the entire piece to save equal parts crust, filling, and whipped cream as the ultimate, final, BEST bite.
  13. Pretending a 20-minute-long explanation about the hierarchy of Pokemon characters doesn’t make you want to take a nap in traffic.
  14. Hanging out in a gas station bathroom for 15 minutes as the four-year-old leisurely takes a dump while belting Jingle Bells (in July.)
  15. Two words: Nit. Picking.
  16. Sacrificing – without hesitation – a dry-clean-only scarf to an alarmingly bloody (but otherwise not very serious) head wound.
  17. Hosting a sleepover birthday party. (There will be no sleeping. By anyone. At all.)
  18. Being woken up in the middle of the night and maturing past the point of wanting to turn anyone who dare do so into a wall ornament.
  19. Agreeing to get a pet because they “prooommmise to clean up after it.” And then being elbows deep in domesticated animal feces two weeks later.
  20. Transferring those grocery store cupcakes from the plastic packaging to an attractive platter before dropping them off at the school bake sale.
  21. That 400th read through of “Goodnight Moon” where you actually looked at the pages when you could very well have recited it from memory while scrolling through your Facebook feed.
  22. Attending any concert where the decibel level of screaming pre-teen girls hovers around “jet engine.”
  23. Making sure your will is notarized before embarking on their first driving lesson.

Tell us some of the ways you’ve said “I love you” in the comments below.