Following a day of teaching adult students in a community a couple hours away from home, my goal was merely to get home and see my family. As I pulled into the driveway, I noticed my wife’s car was not there. Unfortunately, I had just missed her and the girls. After grabbing a quick bite to eat I decided to head over to our office building where the girls would be finishing up the day’s schoolwork. I will admit, with each passing year, getting older, not only have the normal aches and pains intensified, so have the feelings of excitement over seeing my family after a time away.
As I entered the room, the scene was heavenly. My family and I embraced, greeting one another with smiles on our faces, commenting about how nice it was to see each other. As I spoke to my wife, a short time later, about my day, my youngest daughter Riyann gingerly walked up to where I was seated. As I watched her, I could see excitement in her face. Reaching out, she held a laminated piece of paper. I could see the paper contained some writing and characters drawn on the front.
As I reached out to take the paper she was offering, she said, “I made this pretty drawing for you today.” Following thanking her and responding that it was simply beautiful, and the coolest gift I had received that day, my child smiled coyly and went back to her desk to continue her work. As I looked upon the 10-year-old’s masterpiece I noticed that the paper was separated into six sections, each of which contained a variance of the words “I love you” and had the name of one of our family members in it.
What caught my eye was not only that she described her love for her grandma and grandpa, mom, sister, and I, she also included herself. As I gazed upon the picture, centering on one outlined section, I thought about how fitting the drawing was. My mind flowed to the fact that moments like these made every hardship, frustration, and question about parenting worth it. Within that obscure section lay the words “Riyann, I love You To!”
My child had expressed her love for her family and I’m sure without thinking added herself to the mix. For me, her inclusion was the culmination of affirmations throughout her life. You see, so often in this world full of negative responses, tearing others down, and meanness, it is difficult at times to feel secure in who we are and simply love ourselves. Difficult, yet important. I’m not talking about prideful living or considering yourself grander than the human standing next to you. I am speaking of genuinely being content within your own skin and loving who you are and who you will become.
For my child, loving others comes naturally. She has learned to see beyond the temporal happenings surrounding her, like arguments and not getting her way, centering on the pureness of who we are and her deep love for others. In the process, she has learned to love herself as well, understanding that she too, deserves her love. Each of us can learn from the outlook of this little girl, putting aside all the negatives around us and simply falling in love with who we are again. For it is when we love ourselves and who we are or hope to be that the courage to open ourselves up and welcome others is imminent. Cut yourself a break my friends, show some love.
Richard J. Stephens lives in Carter County and is the father of three little ladies ranging in age from 9 to 29.