Sarah R. Callender


In General, Parenting on August 30, 2010 at 6:14 am

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?”

He nodded.

“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.

  1. Oh, how I have missed your posts! Was delighted to find a new read this morning!
    Love language, what a great reminder. My husband and I have discussed love languages as well. I love that kind of stuff. However, I have never applied it to my children. My son, too, loves games, but art/crafts as well, and always requests my time with him. But then again, so does my daughter. I’m always feeling guilty that my time with them is never enough. I aim for at least 20 minutes of quality time for each child and that doesn’t alwyas feel like it’s enough or isn’t always met. I take them to the park, etc. but it’s rarely that “one on one” time. Thanks for the reminder, especially of what is most important to me! Today is a new day…

    • Thanks, Midori, for all of your thoughtful posts. They are a bright spot to my day . . . and yes, there is never enough Mom to go around. I hope you are feeling as great as you look . . . here’s to the happy end to your pregnancy. 🙂

  2. I need to teach you double solatire! Maybe if you beat Buddie one too many times you can bargain for a little alone time.I’m sure you won’t find that in any parenting book, but we moms gotta do what we gotta do!

  3. Love it!

  4. I need to teach you double solatire. Maybe if you beat Buddie one too many times you can bargain for a little alone time! And no, you will not find that in any parenting book, but as a parent of a son who sometimes displays those same needs as Buddie …. I have resorted to beating him at his own game.

  5. Great post! I’m Words of Affirmation too, and Bertie is Please Scritch Me Under the Chin Thank You.

  6. Sarah, I can totally relate! Another great book on this topic is MotherStyles, which discusses personality types of parents and kids. Comforting to hear that I am sometimes feel like screaming because I’m an introvert and it’s hard for me to interact with someone for 12 hours straight, rather than because I’m Evil or Heartless. Continue working your flashdance neckline!

  7. First time I read Love Languages was before kids and I found it hard to decide which was my love language because I was pretty fulfilled in all of them. The last time I read Love Languages was right after our second child was born and I found it difficult to choose my love language because I was pretty unfulfilled in all of them. Things are balancing out again, so I should read the book now and see how it goes. 🙂

  8. Sarah, so wise are you. Knowing my own addiction to words of affirmation, I sow them freely around the home but seem to only reap buckets of Toddler Dissatisfaction. My children are still wee-ish at 3 and 2yrs-less-4-months and I wonder a bit about how these Love Language preferences come to be. I think I hoped that having married someone who insists on Acts of Service (and lives with the constant disappointment of having partnered with someone who serves poorly…), that I might at least raise up a generation who will feel loved by what I have to offer. Alas, it is beginning to appear that in fact, I have not succeeded. Of course, the jury is still out and I can hope that when N begins to speak, his first sentence is “Mummy, you have made me a better man. I love how you’ve parented me so far.” It seems unlikely though…

    The other wonderings I have in this direction are about how we parent our children through the truth that there is no Just Right and Enough Love in this world. For me and mine, I have a Jesus story that points to a Greater Love Than This. The gap between my paltry offerings and their deep, bottomless need is filled by the Creator of All That Is Good. Regardless though of your faith (or not), I would think we do well to have a narrative for our kids that includes the relentless truth that no one is going to do it Just Right and Enough and finding a way to live with that truth and its attendant sadness is in fact probably at the heart of happiness somehow.

    • Fabulous. Love this comment. The other day, Buddy told me that he wants to be a Lego designer when he grows up. “Because,” he said, “Legos are my most favorite thing.” Then he paused. “Actually, they’re my second-favorite thing.”

      I (of course) said, “Who’s your first favorite, me?”

      “No,” he said, “You’re tied for second (with Legos).”

      My heart fell a little. “Then who’s your first favorite? Daddy? Baseball?”

      “No, mooooom. Jesus is my first favorite.”

      Ahhh. Good answer. 🙂

      Now every time he gets whiny and needy, I can remind him of your post. Thanks so much, Alison.

  9. Wow – great post, great comments! Thanks to all and especially to Sarah!

  10. While I do not have a husband to discuss the love language thing, after watching the Pepe le Pew video (and laughing out loud that you had a link to it), and thinking of recent male relationship experiences – or all of them, for that matter – I am thinking that Pepe le Pew is looking like quite a catch!

  11. Wouldn’t life/relationships be so much easier if everyone just wore a shirt or hat that had their preferred Love Language written clearly across the front? Perhaps in the future they will, except it will be written across their shiny, clingy body-suits.

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