There are times in life when you realize just exactly how much your childhood impacted who you are and how you perceive things. I had one of these moments recently. My daughter and I were talking about the 5 Love Languages. She went through giving her answers for the test for children. Even as she answered, I realize what epic failure I was as a parent at showing her love. I know all about love languages, have taught on them. Yet I failed to speak the language my daughter needed. I realized how much, even though I am proud of her, I didn’t necessarily speak words of affirmation to her. As a child that was her primary love language. She and I talked about this, but I just kept staring at my epic fail questioning why I didn’t act on what I know.
I know that words of affirmation is not in my top love languages. I love acts of service and quality time. Physical touch I can speak when necessary with those close to me and those in my circles. Words of affirmation and gifts, they make me uncomfortable.
I looked back to my own childhood and started reflecting on how my parents expressed or rather didn’t express love. My mom did things for people, she cooked, she cleaned, she taught, she opened our home. My dad, he did things with us. He was good at coordinating quality time. Physical touch was pretty nonexistent after my father came back home, and I was just in 1st grade when he left. Until that time I would sit on his lap and read the Bible stories, we would play, and dad loved to tickle. Gifts were for holidays and birthdays. But I don’t remember words of affirmation for the things I did in life.
Don’t get me wrong, my parents did stand behind me regardless of the decisions I made. I just don’t ever remember being told “I’m proud of you.” “You did a great job” even “I love you.” These words I didn’t hear growing up, at least from my parents. However, I did hear words of affirmation from people in my life who built me up. People who believed in me and who encouraged me throughout my life. Even if they were there for a brief period of time, I had people at every stage of my life that would encourage me.
I realized that in my own life, I speak that languages that were spoken to me. When I take the tests, they scream loudly Acts of Service and Quality Time. Then I question if my primary love language was physical touch, but when it stopped I forgot how to speak it. As a teenager, I sought out physical touch in the wrong places, so ended up speaking it wrong. As a mother, aunt and grandmother, I love to curl up with my kids and grandkids, receive hugs, and feel their little hands on my face as they try to keep my attention. As a wife, I love physical touch, when I don’t get it I think something is wrong. But I keep others at a distance, and really put off a vibe that I am probably not a touchy person.
And then I contrast that to the work I do. I’m a counselor. I encourage people and give them hope. I help them see the positive steps that they’re taking in their life on a daily basis. I have no problem speaking words of affirmation to clients. I also have no problems speaking words of encouragement to people I meet. Yet for those close to me, brutal honesty has always been my way.