When my husband and I were going through premarital counseling we learned about the Love Languages. These are the ways we give and receive love, Dr. Gary Chapman identified five love languages and has researched and written on this topic in several books.
My middle daughter’s love language is physical touch, she is not as interested in hugs and kisses she really loves to wrestle and tickle. My love language is words of affirmation (aka let’s talk about how much we love each other, but please don’t try to tickle me). She is almost 5 years old and is funny, spunky and loves to be as goofy as possible. She loves to be loud, throw things and push the envelope. My husband is so good at tickling and wrestling, and in all honesty, this is his love language too. However, I have NO IDEA how to tickle or wrestle. I don’t remember ever wanting to be tickled or to seek it out. My idea of quality time includes: holding hands, giving each other compliments, and not making a mess. When I actually sit on the floor to play with my girls, I can muster the strength to read books, color or play dolls, I just can’t find the energy to wrestle.
Lately, my daughter has been asking me to tickle and wrestle. She actually says “Can you tickle me?” I am usually in the middle of touching raw chicken or something and I really want to say “no, my hands are dirty” but her face is so sweet. I have read enough parenting articles to understand that if she is able to articulate her needs, then I should listen. I really do not want to tickle or wrestle. I really want a nice hug followed by a sweet conversation. I offer up other ideas like, coloring, play dough, or even Barbies. She persists. So I give in.
We go to the middle of the living room and I awkwardly try to tickle or wrestle. It is painful to watch. If my husband walks in, I am actually embarrassed because it is so awkward. I would literally rather do anything else. I think she pretends to be entertained and then eventually gives up on me. She has actually said “ok mom, we can color now”. At this point, I feel like I have really let her down. I can tell she has seen through my fake interest and has called my bluff.
I am trying so hard to be a good mom to my little lady. We give love and feel love so differently. I can see how she gets so upset when I hug my other two daughters, almost like she is keeping score of who is getting the most affection. I try to hug and kiss her as much as possible, but tickling is such a foreign concept to me and wrestling is really out of my comfort zone. However, I am really, really trying. Last wrestling match included me pretending to be a sumo wrestler. I have considered watching wrestling matches just to get some ideas.
Lucky for me, she is a kind and forgiving child. She does seem to love and enjoy me, which thrills me because I really enjoy this little ray of sunshine. I really hope she sees that her momma is trying. She sees my awkward tickling and will forgive my sorry attempts of physical play. She humors me and lets me tell her the “Top 10 reasons I love her” and will sit with me while we hold hands. When we have a moment that we are both speaking the same Love Language (this usually happens when I tell the occasional hilarious joke about bathroom functions) there is a spark. Like she sees me in a different light, and she loves what she sees and feels.
I am just trying to figure out how we can start to speak the same language more often and more fluently. How can I make sure she is getting the type of affection she needs when it seems so foreign to me? As I stumble through this thing called motherhood, I am realizing that as I learn about my children I am learning so much about myself. I have learned that sometimes showing my love feels a little forced, because I am intentionally trying to show her how much I love her and trying to “say” it in a way she will understand. I have also learned how smart kids are. She is keenly aware that her momma loves to hear “I love you” and will say it all day, even though I know she would rather show me her love through a fierce tickle fight followed by an epic wrestling match.