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How Giving Love Makes You Feel Loved

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continued...

"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."

Did the whole family remember to give warm greetings and farewells?

With that question settled, everyone agreed good-naturedly to undertake the resolution to give warm greetings and farewells — but would we all remember to do it, without nagging? I didn't want a resolution meant to boost our feelings of affection to turn into a source of conflict.

Somewhat to my surprise, we all quickly began to keep this resolution (well, most of the time). As a consequence, several times per day we have moments of real connection among all members of our family. For instance, instead of letting my older daughter yell, "I'm leaving!" before she disappears out the door to walk to school, I call, "Wait, wait!" — and we all hurry to give her a real hug and a real goodbye.

Giving warm greetings and farewells feels like a natural thing to do, and the more we do it, the more it becomes a habit — which, of course, means that we all expect it now and feel annoyed or hurt if a warm acknowledgment doesn't come.

One night, as soon as I walked through the door, I rushed to scribble a note to myself (if I don't write down important things the moment they occur to me, I never think of them again). As I was writing this crucial note with the stub of a red crayon on the back of a school notice about an outbreak of strep throat, my younger daughter marched over to me with a scowl and called me on breaking my own resolution.

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