“I Love You Daddy!”

Sometimes I get this simple little sentence without even asking. It is enough to stop time for a second while I let it soak. Tingles run up my neck and, from time to time, I get a little teary. For just a moment I wonder if that feeling is love, unfiltered and running up my back? I want to think so.

My ADD kicks in and my mind fast forwards to explaining the concept to my girls. What are they being taught about love by the world?

I think we do a really crappy job of describing love as a base emotion. Movies and books would have us believe that love is something that happens instantly and without warning. We develop this idea that love needs to be proven. If he doesn’t do this or buy that then he doesn’t love me. If she won’t do this or that then she doesn’t love me. Love doesn’t require advertisement.

There are two areas that I think we all confuse with love.

One is obviously lust. Love at first sight is probably a misdiagnosed double-lust that happens to work out. I don’t mean to pop any bubbles but that is probably pretty accurate. I knew in a tenth of a second that I wanted my wife but I would be lying to say that, at that point, it wasn’t purely visual. She is a sexy lady, what can I say? Then she turned me down and played hard to get, which brings me around to the second misplaced emotion…

The need to be needed. The desire for someone to prove that you are likeable or worthy. This is the area that scares me the most for my kids. This is the feeling that becomes addictive for the bad relationships. A terrible falling out and emotional low, followed by a reunion and validation that you were worth something after all. Also in this category is the idea of having the power in a relationship. For instance, have you ever been in one that both of you knew it wouldn’t work out but the one who breaks it off first has the power? Never mind that 24 hours before everyone was miserable. The inevitable result is that the dumped person feels rejected and the dumper feels a hopeful freedom. Rekindling the romance usually ends up in the roles being reversed. The longing that remains is more self-doubt and disappointment than love.

So what is love? I’m not sure how to define it but the further I go, the more I learn.

This is what I have so far:

Love is putting a diaper on the dog because she is still happy and healthy but can’t control herself all the time. She taught us how to parent and deal with something that depended on us to live. She was our first child and devoted to her new pack.

Love is also, not putting her to sleep even though she snores like a Pug with a deviated septum.

Love is that same dog diving into a pool to rescue you while she knew the entire time that she couldn’t swim. It was a very “Titanic” moment.

Love is holding your youngest baby and singing Row Row Row Your Boat long after she is asleep because you let the phase pass to quickly and she doesn’t need you to sing anymore, but you do need it…. Kiss her head. Smell her sweet baby-shampoo hair. Notice how she is limp and relaxed against your body, totally trusting and deeply asleep. Comforted by you. Love lives here.

Love is crying like a baby while you write that last little bit down.

Love is letting them sleep in your bed sometimes. Not often, but enough.

Love is watching them care for one another, sometimes on purpose.

Love is rocking your sick child and wanting to take the fever and pain and carry it for them. To snuggle them hard enough to protect them from anything bad.

Love is dropping everything to play board games or have a sudden movie night.

Love is driving a minivan when you really want a sports car that plays loud music and drives too fast. Instead you have a sweet DVD player that you can’t watch but at least minivans still have warp-speed abilities to evade law enforcement. Probably more pity than speed getting me out of tickets.

Love is telling your children that you are an engineer and they assume that you are THE ONLY engineer and thereby a hero. A superhero scientist who has reached mental enlightenment and must know the answer to every question ever. They feel this way because they love you and most likely you have their trust.

Love is standing in the kitchen eating the leftovers of the meal because everyone needed something at different times and you never got a chance to sit down so you just played the part of waiter until everyone was finished.

Love is when the children want to be around you. Maybe not engaged with you necessarily but in the same room. Playing with plastic ponies and dragging in piles of books asking to read.

Love is what leaks out as tears when I scold a child that needed a hug instead and I have to pull her out of her shell to apologize. Holding them while they cry at their disappointment is a cruel punishment that I deserve.

Love is going into a hospital room while my wife is having a panic attack with a resting heart rate near 200 bpm and when I put my arms around her, the rapid heartbeat calms and there is a peaceful easy feeling that just comes from being together. This is the love that I love the most. Companionship. Someone who my world requires to feel right. The person who occupies the right side of the bed and three fourths of the comforter. When I am not working, we are most likely together. Fighting back the onslaught of life, side by side. She is my truth that if “Someone loves you, you are never rejected, decide what to be and go be it.”

Love is donating a kidney to your husband without a flinch or question. My mom did that.

Love is watching your mom entering that moment on a hospital gurney and knowing deep down she taught you enough and loved you enough to keep her spirit alive by sharing it with others. Love is saying a just-in-case goodbye by not saying much of anything and just letting the moment be. In some ways we spend our lives saying goodbye, a grand buildup to the climax of life. Anything worth saying probably already has been said. Tell your loved ones in those last moments but use all the time before to show them.

Love is knowing that the people in your past are just a mirror to your future. You don’t lose people you love. You keep the parts of them that are special. Those become a part of who you are and you spend the rest of your time giving those good things away to someone else. The slow flame that passes over us from one generation to the next, love is the flame. We are the fuel.

“Like a small boat, out on the ocean, I might only have one match, but I can make an explosion.”

If you think Love is a complicated topic, this post is for you. I think so too. You’re welcome.

-Underdaddy to the rescue.

(This post originally ran on Underdaddy)

About the author: David Blackwood is a father of four girls, husband to a spicy brunette, and a writer of words. Most of his words are about family and furry things that wear diapers (ex. a young wallaby and an octogenarian dog). He works hard to support the theory that being a success means sharing your failures. Read about his misadventures in life, love, and stepping on plastic coat hangers at Underdaddy.com or on his Facebook page.


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