Saying "I love you" for the first time is not one of the milestones you'll read about in parenting books or be asked about by your pediatrician. Unlike other developmental markers, like rolling over, walking, or talking, saying "I love you" can really come at any time once a child is verbal. My daughter let me know when she was 10 months that she loved me. My son made me sweat it until he was almost 2. No matter when it happens, there are things every mom thinks when her kid says "I love you" for the first time.
Let's be clear: the first time your child says "I love you" isn't the first time they decide they love you. You're the parent, and they're a child, so they're pretty much genetically engineered to love you and vice versa. If you keep up your end of the deal (what with the feeding and nurturing and loving them back), things are going to be awesome for you. Still, very small children (toddlers and below) really don't know how to put names to what they're feeling which make sense, considering emotions are confusing. I know grown-ass adults who still don't get it, including yours truly (half the time). I have a lot of feelings, you guys! They're hard to parse! Like, I cry over some internet video every single day of my life and most of the time I really don't know what, exactly, I'm crying about. I can't put a name to that emotion!
Now, imagine trying to formulate thoughts around the huge, all-encompassing concept of "love" only months after you've finally formulated your thoughts around the concept that you have toes. That's what little kids are up against, really. So, be patient if it doesn't happen right away. It will. Until it does, rest easy knowing that they love you dearly, even if they can't express it the way adults do. And, when it does happen, get ready for the following roller coaster of emotions...
Um, wait, what? I've never heard those words before from you. Am I hearing them correctly? Did I just hear what I thought I just heard?
I did! Holy crap! This is amazing! I've been longing for this day since before you were even born! Everyone told me it would be awesome and it is.
"Where's My Phone?! I've Gotta Get A Video Of This!"
Because everyone knows that nothing actually happened until it's posted on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, right?
"I Need To Text Everyone That This Just Happened"
This is just one of the many texts new parents send, but this one is arguably and easily one of the coolest. All of the most important people must know about this recent development, immediately. You can't risk some random people on IG knowing before they do, after all.
"I Think My Heart Just Exploded"
Seriously, what is this feeling? I can't tell if my heart stopped beating or if it's beating so fast you can't even detect the movement, like hummingbird wings or something. Am I dying? Whatever, if I am it's a good death.
I was getting sort of worried there for a little bit. Like, was there something up with you? Was it me? Am I just completely unlovable? Did I not really teach you what love is? It's kind of a load off my mind, honestly.
"My Love Has Finally Paid Off"
Let's face it, all those times I was saying it to you, even before you were verbal, a part of me was really hoping to hear it back. I won't say "expecting," but I was kind of expecting it. I put in my "I love you" work because, of course, I love you more than anything, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't also aiming for some sort of return on said investment. Now that you've finally said those three little words, it's already paid off.
"Oh No! Someday They'll Be A Surly Teenager And They Won't Say This Anymore! I've Got To Soak It All Up Now!"
People have been warning me of your teenage years since you were born, and now I'm presented with one more thing I'm going to have to miss when you get all angsty and annoying. This is yet another reason I need to record this moment. I'm going to need video proof that you were once a loving adorable child to sustain me through the years you're going to be a whiny brat.
"Wait, What Do They Want?"
Is this a "quid pro quo, Clarice" moment? I'm really emotional and vulnerable right now and I do not put it past your devious little baby mind to be able to see that and use it against me.
"Whew! They're Not Some Creepy Kid Who Can't Feel Emotion!"
They feel feelings! Whoa, kids are just like us!
"So How Come It Took You This Long?"
For real. I've sensed it for a long time and you've given me lots and lots of clues (the hugging, the snuggling, the wailing for me when I leave a room and wow that last one got old fast). Why didn't you just come out with it?
"Say It Again"
And again, and again, and again!
"No Thoughts Whatsoever, Just Blissful Euphoria"
After all, my heart has already exploded. My brain was absolutely going to be the next to go.
"I Love You, Too. So Much."
It's ridiculous how much, actually.