Why Parents Must Be Well-Versed In Love…And A Bunch of Other Virtues

About a dozen people have approached me over the past year asking if I’ve read “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. Each time, my gaze falls to the floor as I slowly shake my head.

It’s true, I haven’t read it. But I’ve heard enough about it, I feel as though I’ve read it several times over. According to Chapman, we express and receive love in five different “languages”:

Acts of Service

Physical Touch

Receiving Gifts

Words of Affirmation

Quality Time

We differ in which language we speak most fluently, but humankind generally tends to show love in these five categories.

Chapman claims we all have one or two that mean the most to us, and we also have one(s) that means less. Thus, it’s important to learn your loved ones’ languages and start speaking them.

For example, long before my husband and I were married, we dated long-distance. At the time, I didn’t know he was a Physical Touch kind of fellow who likes to show love through hugs and hand-holding.

On the flip side, he didn’t know Physical Touch was not my strongest suit. It was no wonder he got totally offended after driving 13-hours to see me and I greeted him with a high five.

Like I said, I’ve learned.

But over the past couple years, I’ve learned something totally different: You have to be well-versed in all the languages to be a parent. Especially when that parent stays at home all day with the littles.

Let me explain.

My family and I recently moved into a new house. Between nursing my infant, ensuring my toddler was alive, and making our new house a home, there was little time (or energy) for anything else. That meant less snuggles, less tickles, less giggles, less playing with mom.

After a week or so, my two-year-old was fed up with this new routine. Her behavior drastically changed, and the joyous little lady I had known simply vanished.

For me, it was a wake up call, and I realized that maintaining my house was not nearly as important as maintaining my children. So I put all the home improvement projects on hold so I could play with and cuddle my kids.

Almost overnight, Marie switched back to being my merry mini-me.

“Wow,” I thought. “Quality Time must be her love language. Just like me.” (Because this is what all nerdy moms think about, especially the ones with a Psychology degree…)

The next day was full of tickles, giggles, and activities. The shine in Marie’s eyes returned and she laughed without reservation. My girl was back.

Until I snuggled my 6-month-old.

“Mommy, hug me,” Marie said, climbing into my lap and wrapping her tiny arms around my neck.

I pulled her into my chest and covered her face with kisses.

Well shoot, maybe she’s Physical Touch like her Daddy.

It didn’t hit me until later—when I was pouring pureed bananas into a ramekin and smearing peanut butter and jelly onto a piece of bread—that maybe they both preferred Acts of Service. After all, Elizabeth was screaming her head off for those bananas and Marie was repeating her new favorite phrase, “Mommy, I don’t feel so good.” (Which—after some stressful attempts to solve that problem and a couple conversations with doctors—I’ve come to discover just means she’s hungry.)

Later, Elizabeth crawled across the living room hunting a plastic golf ball. When she finally managed to catch the slippery sucker and hold it in her pudgy fingers, I clapped. She beamed. When the ball slipped away from her, she chased it down again, then looked at me, expecting praise.

“Hooray Elizabeth!” I cheered.

“Hooray Marie!” my toddler applauded, giving herself a verbal pat on the back.

Okay, maybe Words of Affirmation is their go-to.

And what kid doesn’t want presents? Just flip open the Toys R’ Us catalog and Marie will demonstrate her fluency in Receiving Gifts.

It dawned on me then that—at least in this stage of life—kids need all of your love. Every single language. Every single moment. Every single day.

All that to say, parents, we need to be well-versed in every aspect of love known to man. Maybe we don’t need to be perfectly fluent, but we do need to arm ourselves with basic vocabulary. You wouldn’t want to visit a Spanish-speaking country without knowing phrases like “gracias”, “por favor” or “Donde esta el bano?”

In a similar light, you don’t want to visit with your children without knowing how to speak love to them in a way they understand.

There’s no Rosetta Stone for this particular feat, nor are there courses you can take to brush up on your ability to speak a certain love language. There’s only patience and perseverance. So, parents, you’ll need those, too.

Funny how children force us to be sanctified. Silly me, when I started this whole parenting thing, I thought it was my job to keep them pure.

But I’ve found that by trying to shape and mold my daughters’ morals, my own character gets put through the fire. As though parenthood—when done right—is a little taste of purgatory. A little snippet of life that trims the fat from our soul, then sets it ablaze until it’s golden.

And because of that, as my family and I sanctify each other and grow together toward God, parenthood—when done right—is also a little taste of heaven.

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