4.26.2006

Loving Isaiah

Loving Nathan is easy. His soul is wide open, wide as his eyes. Whatever it is that he needs, he makes sure that I get the message, loud and clear. Emphasis on the loud part.

And more often than not, what he needs is “huggies!” Huggies are easy to give, especially when your little son throws his arms rapturously about your neck, a carefree and mildly maniacal grin pulling the corners of his mouth, wide as they’ll go, wide as his soul, wide as his eyes.

Sometimes I can’t give him huggies just then, but I know the need will still be there waiting when I’m done with baby’s diaper, and I can count on him not to let me forget.

Loving Isaiah is different. Not that he’s a bit less loveable and endearing. It’s just that his needs are quieter. Loving Isaiah means stopping to listen to him, and stooping down to see what he’s pointing out. Loving Isaiah means slowly flipping through the Yellow Pages backwards and growling in imitation of the fearsome termites pictured in the exterminator’s ad. Above all, loving Isaiah means lots of Curious George, and always letting him pick out his own clothes.

Loving Isaiah happens on his own time.

Andy and I have been mulling over Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages. It’s an excellent book, and his insights have been tremendously helpful in learning to understand one another.

Nevertheless, it struck me as a bit simplistic to say that everyone would have one love language, and that would be the key to everything... It’s awfully hard for me to imagine a healthy relationship without all five elements.

Last week, Andy and I had a little spat, and wanting to make up, I reached out to touch him. As usual. And as usual, it was entirely the wrong thing to do. But this time around, Andy was able to explain what was going on. Touch is my primary love language, and when we are distant or at odds I want us to cuddle our way back to intimacy. Not so for Andy. Physical affection is important to him, too, but it’s a sign that all is well between us, not a way to get there. If all is not well, my hand on his shoulder is simply an invasion of his personal space. For Andy, “kiss and make up” is entirely the wrong order. He’d much rather make up and then kiss.

As I thought about it, the same is true for me and acts of service. Andy’s primary love language is acts of service, and he really does express so much love for me in this way. He’s really wonderful, and he helps around the house a LOT. And when all is well between us, I know that it’s love, and I receive it as such. But if I feel insufficiently cuddled, I don’t perceive his service as love, but rather as a vote of no confidence.

It seems that our particular love languages aren’t the only ways we can receive love well, but they are the keys that open up our hearts to receive love in all the different ways.

Anyway, the other day we were noticing that Isaiah was much less cuddly than his brother. While Nathan would perpetually run up to us and throw his arms around us, Isaiah would not even let us hug him lately, except as we tucked him into bed. And then only briefly.

We were concerned, but we weren’t entirely sure how concerned we should be. Was Isaiah feeling insecure and withdrawing from us, or was he simply a less huggy creature by nature? Maybe it was just that while Nathan’s love language is obviously physical touch, Isaiah’s is... something else.

Whatever the case, the only thing to do was to pay careful attention to Isaiah, and learn how best to love him.

It was easier than we thought. The very question turned out to be the answer. Isaiah’s love language seems to be quality time, and as we simply started paying close attention to him, you could see him begin to glow.

And strangely enough, now that his “love tank” is full of quality time, he lets me cuddle him. Not only that, but often throughout the day, I’ll feel two little arms wrap around me, and turn around to kiss Isaiah’s beaming face.

“Huggies!”

3 comments:

~Melissa said...

Ah yes, Sam is a cuddly guy, and physical touch is definitely his love language. But when we are fighting, there is no way I want to touch him or want him to touch me. I feel that it is almost "fake" in that it's not what I'm feeling right then, so why should I do it? I don't want to hold his hand as we walk into church if I'm mad at him. No pretenses, you know? Maybe that helps explain Andy as well.

Destination...Gloryland! said...

Wow. That is amazing. We have the "Love Languages" book, but unfortunately it's like many other books on our shelves...it collects dust. I think we simply need to get it out and set aside time to read it. It sounds immensely helpful in understanding the differences and personalities of our children, even though it is probably a bit simplistic as you noted.

Once again, I am reminded that children aren't raised by a 3-stop process. They are individual. They are special in their own ways and we need to really focus in on their needs, wants, and skills.

I've recently found that my 3 year old son thrives on feeling like the man of the house during the day. If I give him a "manly" job, he stands up straight, puffs out his chest and says in a deeper voice, "Yep! I can do that."

Thank you for the reminder...

JMS said...

This is beautiful, Elena! Thank you SO much for sharing your helpful insights.
; )
Love,
Jenn