How Giving Love Makes You Feel Loved
By Gretchen Rubin
When our two daughters were little, they'd greet my husband and me with wild enthusiasm whenever we walked in the door, and they often cried miserably when we left. More recently, however, they had sometimes barely looked up from their games or homework or books when we walked in or out. It was a relief, in a way, but also a little sad. And too often, my husband and I didn't give warm greetings or farewells to the girls or to each other, either.
I had already made a long-standing resolution to "hug more, kiss more, touch more." Few of us have much time, energy, or money to spare, but this resolution doesn't demand any extra time, energy, or money — and yet it makes a real difference in the atmosphere of my apartment. It makes each of us feel more loved, more cherished. To build on that resolution, I wanted all of our family members to get a moment of acknowledgment and welcome every time they walked through the door. But for this resolution to work best, we would all have to participate.
Over a Sunday breakfast of blueberry pancakes, before springing my proposal on the family, I posed a question to the table: "If you could make a resolution for everyone in our family, what would it be?"
My husband answered without hesitation. "I do whatever I want, while the rest of the family cleans up the apartment and runs errands."
"That's an interesting suggestion," I said dryly. Then I asked, "Does anyone have other ideas?"
My older daughter said, "We'd have different things for breakfast during the week, like scrambled eggs or soft-boiled eggs, instead of just cereal or peanut butter on toast."
"We could do that," I said, happy to comply. "I didn't know you wanted anything else for breakfast." Then I turned to my 6-year-old. "How about you? Do you have a suggestion?"
"People would always give me a big hug and a big kiss every time they saw me," she answered promptly. "And I would get to go to the store to buy a toy whenever I wanted."
"Well, I want to propose something," I said with a laugh. "It's a lot like the first part of that suggestion. I want us to try having a rule that when any one of us comes home or is leaving, we all have to pay attention to that person for a minute. Let's give warm greetings and farewells."
"Why?" asked my older daughter.
"I think we've fallen into some bad habits of not paying attention, and it's important to show affection for each other," I answered. "I know that I'm bad about this myself. It's hard to be interrupted when you're in the middle of something, but this is important."
"But what if I forget?" wailed my little one. "What if I'm playing and I don't remember?"
"Don't worry, it's OK if you forget," I reassured her. "Let's just try doing this. It won't be a big deal if we forget sometimes."