The ‘I Love You’ Rule

My husband is not a morning person. When our children were babies, I envied his ability to sleep through their crying, something my bionic mommy hearing wouldn’t allow me to do. A decade or so later, long past the years of late-night feedings and baby monitors, he still dozes peacefully through my 6 a.m. alarm until his own clock starts buzzing an hour or so later.

Since their father is rarely up before they leave for school, it surprised and pleased our children to see him heading downstairs at 6:30 yesterday morning. They were already bundled in their coats with backpacks in hand, waiting for their ride to band practice. My husband settled in next to me on the couch, and we all cuddled together for a few minutes.

As the kids walked out the door, we told them we loved them as we always do when we say goodbye. It’s an unspoken rule in our family to say “I love you” whenever we part ways or end a phone call. I never coached the kids to say it; they just did, and still do.

After they left, I asked my husband why he was up so early. Was he worried, as I was, about them going back to school after what had happened at Sandy Hook Elementary? He said no. In the same way he can sleep through baby monitors and alarm clocks, he can push tragic events to the back of his mind. When he finds it too painful to think about something, he doesn’t. It may have been a coincidence that he was up early, but our kids still received an extra hug, kiss and “I love you” from their father on a day when these things especially mattered.

It was comforting to have my husband take part in our morning goodbyes yesterday, but I don’t mind being the one who gets up with our kids. As they grow older and the world in which we live becomes less certain and more frightening, I embrace the chance to connect with them before they leave the safety of home and family. While they eat breakfast, I help pack their lunches and we talk about their plans for the day. Some mornings they are talkative, others they don’t say much at all. But I am there if they need me, and that makes it easier to watch them go.

My husband may not be a morning person, but he has no problem handling bedtime. He has always been part of the night-time ritual, helping with baths and reading books. As our kids grew older, I eased myself out of the routine, letting him take over the night shift. Even now, at ages 11 and 13, they still ask him to tuck them into bed, and I do it when he isn’t home. Before we leave their rooms, we kiss and hug them goodnight, and we say “I love you.” It doesn’t matter who says it first; one of us always does. We know the rule.

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46 thoughts on “The ‘I Love You’ Rule

  1. This made me tear up. So sweet. When I go back to work, I hope I still have time to connect with mine in the morning. I hope I’m not already thinking ahead to work tasks and must-dos.

    • Awww, thanks! It’s not picture-perfect every morning. As I said, sometimes they say next to nothing to me; other times they can’t stop talking. But I think me being there matters as much to them as it does to me.

  2. We have the same rule because I was a morbid kid who was convinced someone was going to die and not know I loved them, so it has always been the last thing I tell anyone for as long as I can remember.

  3. So sweet that your husband just felt like coming down and making the morning as a secure family unit. I love the i love you.. we’re a bunch of saps over here as well. 🙂

  4. Unfortunately none of my family are morning people, so we don’t always manage the I love you part. Still, I try my best to make sure there are no harsh words spoken in the morning. You just never know what the day will bring and why start it off in a bad mood.

  5. I envy morning people. If I didn’t have, you know, ‘life’ I’d sleep into 12noon everyday.

    I love this family rule. We do it too. There can’t be too many “I love you’s.”

  6. I love that one of the rules in the picture was to know that you are loved. So important to leave each day knowing that, even if there was arguing or a not so great morning. My husband and I have been trading off mornings lately due to work schedules and it feels so odd to me on the days I leave early.

    And saying I love you isn’t optional here either.

  7. I love the “I Love You” rule. I also love hearing my 3yo say it to me…especially when she says it first. Looking forward to the day my 20month old can say it too. Thanks for this!

  8. I LOVE THIS! We never said “I love you” when I was growing up, and my husband and I say it constantly. This will be the same rule I pass on to our daughter.

    P.S. How the heck did you get him to do the bedtime routine???!

    • Thanks, Dani. My 13-year-old BOY still tells me he loves me when we say goodbye in front of his friends. I’m wondering how long it will last. Fingers crossed.

      I was pretty stealthy about the whole bedtime thing. I eased my way out of it gradually. It was so long ago…I’ll have to see if I can recall some of my tactics to share them with you.

  9. My husband and I have always had this unspoken rule and now that we have kids it definitely extends to them. On the rare occasion that we’re arguing enough that it isn’t sad, I feel unsettled all day. If the unthinkable were to happen, I need to know the last words we said to each other were “I love you”.

    • I know what you mean, Azara. I usually break down after a fight and call my husband to tell him I love him — even when I know I’m right. 🙂 I just can’t bare the thought of things ending that way.

  10. I am not a morning person, and neither is my kindergartner, and this year has been a struggle. What seems to make it better is rocking out to loud happy music in the car. By the time we get to school, we’re back in the groove. But those first few moments waking up together are rough. I kind of look forward to her being a teen so we can just drink coffee together silently.

  11. So sweet! I always make sure to tell my kids I love them in the morning. Its just me so I probably overcompensate, but I tell them I love them at least 10 times a day!

  12. We have the same unwritten/unsaid rule – it just happens. I guess I learned it from my parents and have passed it on.

    I’m SO not a morning person – Hubs and I split duty on the kids – he takes the twins and I take the 5yo with all the requisite book reading involved. 🙂

    We split our day and look forward to the time when all the girls will go to bed at the same time and we’ll all get to eat dinner at the same time too!

    • It truly is a wonderful thing to be able to sit down and enjoy a relaxing meal together. We are in a lull between after school activities right now, and I am really loving having dinner as a family every night. I know it won’t last once my son hits high school next year, so I am appreciating it while it lasts.

  13. I loved this: “Some mornings they are talkative, others they don’t say much at all. But I am there if they need me, and that makes it easier to watch them go.”

    My family was the same – even if we were furious with each other, we always said “I love you” if we were parting ways. Going to bed angry with one another was not allowed. I love that you have this with your family. Lovely post!

    • Thanks so much, Peach.

      The same goes in this house: Even if we’re angry, we say it. I always want them to know I feel it, even if I’m mad as heck at them. And on a selfish note, I can’t sleep when I’m angry. So there’s that.

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