As it turns out, Buddy only likes to play solitaire with other people. Someday, he’ll see the irony in that.
It shouldn’t surprise me. Buddy’s always been one of those kids for whom quality time and physical presence is akin to oxygen. So, when Buddy asks, “Want to play solitaire with me, mama?” and I say yes, he runs to get two packs of cards.
And there we sit, sometimes for more than an hour, playing our own games of solitaire. Side by side. Separate but together.
See? Here I am, clad in my Sunday Solitaire outfit. The sad look on my face is NOT that I am lonely, but that I have a whalebone corset digging into my ribs AND garish wallpaper.
What I am NOT kidding about however, is this: If I were to point out to Buddy how alone this solitaire-card playing woman looks, which is precisely how a solitaire-card playing woman should look, he would get that sad look on his face. “But I get lonely when I’m alone.” That’s what he’d day.
That is, in fact, what he does say.
For as long as I have known Buddy (7.5 years plus 38 weeks of pregnancy where he and I were undoubtedly separate but together) he has craved the company of others. He likes brushing his teeth with someone standing there in the bathroom, he likes watching the Mariners with someone beside him, he likes listening to books on tape with someone lying on the floor next to him.
Buddy and I are similar in many, many ways, yet his preference for a constant sidekick is foreign to me. I need alone time. As Lonely as Buddy feels when he is by himself is exactly the same amount of Crazy I feel when I get no alone time.
So as Buddy took breaks from his solitaire game to give me pointers and suggest “better” moves, I realized that Buddy’s and my Love Languages don’t sync up. It’s a problem. I feel guilty when I’m trying to escape him, when I’m hiding from him in the closet or the garage, but man, I cannot abide his presence all the time.
Realizing this issue this morning, I remembered The 5 Love Languages, Dr. Gary Chapman’s book that explains how, in any relationship, we show our love for another by expressing one (or more, but usually one is dominant) of the five Love Languages: Quality Time, Acts of Service, Physical Touch, Words of Affirmation and Receiving Gifts.
That’s how we demonstrate and express our love to someone. We also feel the most loved when someone expresses a particular, preferred Love Language toward us.
The problem occurs if I am not showing el husbandio, for example, love in the lanugauge he understands. I could be giving him infinity Words of Affirmation, and if he only feels love by spending Quality Time with me, he will feel unloved. And I’ll feel misunderstood because I feel I AM loving him, always prattling on with my Affirming Words. It’s like Pepe le Pew and Penelope Pussycat, and Pepe’s thinking that he is giving Penelope exactly what she needs, when really, she’s just looking for someone who’s not so brazen. Or French. Or skunkish.
This theory does not just apply to grown-ups. Kids too, feel most loved and secure when a parent expresses that child’s preferred Love Language.
So yes, Buddy’s Love Language is Quality Time. He feels most loved when there’s someone (anyone really) standing beside him watching him floss his teeth. In contrast, while sometimes I feel like my love language is Someone Lending Me Her Cleaning Lady and Her Nanny and Maybe Her Ooompa Loompa and Then Slipping Me Shopping Money for Some New Fall Clothes and Sassy Boots, I know my love language is actually just plain old Words of Affirmation.
So Buddy needs ALL of my time, which I cannot offer him. Meanwhile, I need Words of Affirmation, and all I hear from him, especially at the bitter end of the summer, is whining and whining and whining. And I’m probably giving him plenty of Words of Affirmation, and all he hears is the Mwaa Mwa Mwaa Mwaa that Charlie Brown’s teacher perfected.
Sweetie, in contrast, would probably claim that Allowing Her to Get Dressed/Eat/Comb her Hair at Her Own Pace is her love language, but again, that language is in direct opposition with my need to ever leave the house.
You see why children feel misunderstood, why marriages break down, why I never get my Ooompa Loompa.
El husbandio and I discussed love languages years ago (read: I forced husbandio to discuss love languages years ago) when I first read the 5 Love Languages in my book group. But when he and I revisited it this morning, after my Buddy-solitaire ephiphany, I learned husbandio’s preferred love language has changed, become more sophisticated.
Apparently, husbandio feels most loved when I Pick Things from His Garden (basil, tomatoes, berries, stubby little cucs) and Cook with Them.
“That’s how you feel loved?” I asked. “When I harvest your basil?”
“I had no idea.”
I paused, trying to think of the last time I had harvested anything from his gardens. “In case you’re wondering, mine’s still Words of Affirmation.” I did a dramatic supermodel pose. “Like right now,” I said, using the sultry voice the Victoria’s Secret ad lady uses. “You might affirm my just-out-of-bed Heat Miser hair. Or perhaps my ratty XL Northwestern sweatshirt with this Flashdance neckline that I wear over my jammies.”
And while husbandio didn’t exactly verbally affirm, he did nod and smile and wiggle his eyebrows, and that was affirmation enough that yes indeed, he loves me in all my morning glory.