I tell my kids all the time that I love them. I tell them several times a day. But it's not because I love them, though I do - so very much. Still, it's the guilt. The guilt is killing me.
The "I love yous" mostly come out when I've said something insensitive, because my offspring are driving me out of my wits. Usually, this happens in three different ways:
They're making too much noise, being too rowdy or getting into fights. So I turn on them and yell, "SHUSH UP ALREADY! YOU ARE DRIVING ME CRAZY!" Then I add as I rub my forehead wearily, "But I love you. I love you."
One or more of them is throwing an enormous tantrum, and my nerves are wearing thin, so I ask bluntly, "Why are you being such a bratty Mcbratterson? You are being so rotten right now! But, hey, I love you."
Or they keep coming back for water or hugs at bedtime, so I give a crazed laugh and say with a thin smile, "Alright, alright. Crying out loud, go to bed already! Mwa! Mwa!" Then I call out as they're grumbling down the hall, "Sleep well! You know I love you!"
This last usually applies to my sweet Ana. If she could find a way to hang on to her Papa and me like a baby chimp at night, falling asleep wrapped around our legs or clutching our backs, she would. She has to get in that final kiss and hug. This goes on for several minutes after the last bedtime story has been read. By the time our little love leech has gotten ten of these final gestures of affection in, you're ready to slingshot her to her bed without further ado. Because, I mean, let's face it: by evening time a mama is all loved out. A mama wants peace. A mama is running out of energy to recite one more "Love you!" before she runs for the chocolate, decaf tea and that neglected mystery novel.
And, okay, if I'm honest, mostly the guilt "love yous" come out after I've threatened to sell my kids to the zoo animals. I'm just teasing them, of course. But after years of hearing me clap my hands loudly at them and exclaim in random moments, "Okay that is it! Get in the car. You're going to live with the zoo animals!" you might understand their moans of, "Stoooop it, Mama!" or their irritated cries of, "Oh, come on!"
That's usually when I say, "You know I'm just kidding. I love you." It hurts my apology that I'm still chuckling.
Besides, it has always been my line of defense for this particular sanity cookie to tell them how much their Uncle Natie teased me while I was growing up, and how, since I was the youngest in my family, I cannot help but tease them now because I had no one to pass "the learnins" on to when I was a kid.
At least my youngest, the baby, still laughs with me as I coo at him, "You want to go live with the mama orangutan, Danny Sammy? You want to?" before his big sister Ana interjects with a whine, "Stop it, Mama! Just stop it! You love Danny Sammy."
Of course I do. I love all my children. I tell them so at the end of every lecture. Too bad they've figured me out, though.
For instance, I was giving Berto a talking to in the kitchen a couple months ago. It went on for a while. I paused at the end before my usual wrap up, but Ella beat me to it.
She grabbed Berto's hand, looked deep into his eyes and said solemnly, "It's okay, Berto. Mama loves you."