|Norrin will not go to bed without a bedtime story.|
I say, “Goodnight Norrin.”
“Goo nigh Nonin,” he mimics.
“Goodnight Norrin.” I repeat, emphasizing the ‘d’ and ‘t’ in goodnight and the double 'r' in Norrin.
Norrin doesn't say anything. He lifts up his shirt and positions himself so that he can rub his stomach on my leg. My first instinct is to tell him to stop – but that would be reinforcing the negative behavior. So I simply adjust his shirt and tuck him back under the blanket. We look at each other and I’m waiting to hear the three words that every mother longs to hear.
“Goodnight Norrin. I love you.” Still nothing. “Say ‘Goodnight’ to mommy,” I ask.
“Say goonigh to mommy,” he says.
“No Norrin. Just ‘goodnight mommy.’”
This goes on a few more times until he finally says ‘goodnight mommy.’
He looks so peaceful and calm that I can’t help but give him another kiss goodnight. I tell him again that I love him and wait. Norrin will be four years old next week and he’s never said “I love you.” I know that he loves me. I see it on his face when I walk in from work and I feel that he loves me when he’s sick or hurt and wants know one else but me – still it’s something I want to hear. But the thought of prompting him to say it, I don’t know, it isn't right to me. Does he understand the concept of love? I have tried to explain it to him. He understands happy, sad, silly and mad – he recognizes those feelings. But not love. I know that one day he’ll say it, completely on his own and that he’ll mean it – of that I am certain. I say goodnight again and he pulls me in for a kiss. For now, a kiss will do. And then he smiles at me, I realize that 'I love you' is just a three word sentence to him - the kiss and smile say it all.