You’ve never felt your heart break quite like when your kid tells you that you don’t love them.
It’s not quite as dramatic as it sounds; at a simple level my daughter is just getting to grips with what love is, a question that has stumped even Foreigner.
She tells me I “don’t love her all the time”, and I believe that what she means is that, say, when I’m being firm with her, or roughhousing with her, or lose my temper I’m not being loving, and I think that for her, now, that single facet of love dominates any other meaning.
And okay then, fine; I just have to both help her grow the richness of her definition of love, and constantly demonstrate through word and deed that I love her more than anything else in the world. Job done.
I do, though, have some unresolved anxieties around those of my behaviours that she seems to interpret as me not loving her. She usually squeals with delight when I pick her up and snuggle her, and seems to genuinely love getting tickled, for example, but these are, I think, things that would fall into this category, and there’s a sense in there somewhere that she’s not wrong. Issues about consent and agency, and her body being hers alone – issues that would be true for a boy too but have particularly dark resonances when the power dynamic is between a male in a position of authority and a younger female in a more junior context – swirl in the mix, and need to be considered and reflected upon. This all, as her life stretches ahead of her for decades, isn’t simple.
But for now, tomorrow, I take the least complicated, purest step. “I love you, Ada. Now and always.”