Sockpants and Super Heroes: Love Languages
Time has a natural way of making a once horrifying family experience into a laugh-out-loud memory thoroughly enjoyable in the years that follow. For instance, the time I indulged in an impromptu pit-stop to one of Spokane’s larger park playgrounds, only to find myself in a full-blown sprint across the gigantic park, with a brightly-colored preschooler bum tossed over my shoulder, and miniature Captain America and Spiderman clad super heroes frantically chasing after me, as we searched in desperation for a restroom that wasn’t locked for the season. As I walked with my kids back to the car with mud all over my shirt and poop in my hair, I swore I would never again be lulled into a spontaneous family outing without the security of my trusty diaper bag as co-pilot.
Looking back at that memory, Tyler points out, “You’ve gotta admit. We have a knack for taking something horribly savage and making it into an epic family adventure. I love that about our family.” He couldn’t be more right. Despite my best efforts, I seem to have a natural ability to create motherhood mayhem wherever I go. Good, bad or otherwise, I wouldn’t change it for anything, as quality time with the ones I love fills my bucket faster than any other love language.
If you are unfamiliar with the concept of love languages, I would strongly suggest reading the writings of Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell, authors of the 5 Love Language series. As it turns out, children have love languages that mirror those of adults. These are: words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch. I decided to test my mom skills and took the quiz based on what I believed were the preferences of each of my kids. I then compared my quiz results to the actual results from each of the them. Was I ever surprised!
Knowing that my daughter’s favorite pastime is baking treats and sharing them with the people she values most, I pegged her as a girl who craves acts of service as her top love language, followed ever so closely with receiving gifts. This is a girl who starts meticulously planning the details of her birthday party six months before the actual date. As I read her each question, and let her pick the answer that most described the activities that made her feel loved, I couldn’t help but get choked up as she repeatedly chose quality time activities with me over fun surprises and gifts. Watching her favorite movie curled up with me on the couch is what she truly craves.
When it comes to my son Caleb, I was confident that his primary love language would be receiving gifts. It wasn’t rocket science, considering I have spent my entire parenting life motivating Caleb through undesired activities with the use of a well-designed reward system. You can imagine my complete and utter shock when I learned that his primary love language, by a considerable margin, was also spending quality time with me. It turns out Caleb prefers playing the Game of Life board game with his mom over an hour of screen time on his iPad, any day of the week.
My 13-year old’s love language results were a bit more predictable. Having experienced the profound loss of his older brother, Tyler has always valued quality time with those he loves. What I found to be most surprising about his quiz results was that he placed virtually zero value in receiving gifts. It made me curious, “Why don’t you like gifts, Tyler?” He just shrugs, “Things are just things. I just feel more loved when you make me my favorite dinner, or listen to what I have to say, or when we do something that’s just the two of us. It doesn’t have to cost anything, Mom. It can just be going to the park and having an epic adventure that ends with you wearing poop in your hair.”
Ever since doing this quiz activity with my kids, I’ve spent more time thinking about the quality of the time I spend with each of my children over the quantity. I also don’t feel the pressure to provide the fancy bells and whistles that I once felt bad for not being able to afford. Instead, I’m comfortable creating simple memories that sometimes end with me wearing mud on my shirt or poop in my hair. As long as we’re together, I’ll take any adventure that includes them and our crazy adventures of sockpants and super heroes.