Showing my two youngest children, Angel and Marie, that l love them has always been a challenge. I can tell Angel I love him 100 times a day, but he will never believe me because he feels unlovable (due to early childhood abuse.) He has dissociative identity disorder (multiple personality disorder.) Sometimes, this 210 pound young man will come and sit on my lap. He is not 15 years old at the time, but three. He will snuggle his head against me and I will put my arms around him, (although that is getting more difficult due to his size!) Then I will sing the Song “All of you…” Only my words are “All of you. I-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i love all of you. All of you, even your angry o-n-e.” He smiles at this, because it is his angry part that feels so unlovable. I can sing it over and over again, and he will smile. The three year old in him believes I love him, but his angry part has been lied to many times before.
Marie has a different issue with my love. She promised her birth mom that she would not love her “new” mom. She is very resistant to kisses and hugs or any other signs of affection because she feels she is being disloyal, (She has expressed to me she cannot show me affection because if she sees her birth mother again, she will be very angry with her.) So, we have survived on fist bumps and the “I Love You” sign in ASL. However, I have ways to show her affection in every day life. For example, ever since she came to live with us at the age of seven, I have dried her off after her shower. This has involved sitting on my lap on the toilet seat while I hug her deeply with the towels on. She melts into my lap and I can tell that she really enjoys it. If I stop too soon, she will ask for more because she is “still wet”. She is 13 years old now and I still towel dry her, (although she modestly wraps herself in the towels before I come into the bathroom.) She still needs my love, even if she cannot accept it in the normal way.
Both children, however, get the biggest kick out of giving me one special kiss. This is not an ordinary kiss, (so it would not go against Marie’s promise to her birth mom.) This is a “let the dog lick them all over their mouths and then they run to me to give me an extra sloppy dog kiss”. I make the obligatory “YUCK!” face, and they both convulse in laughter. Ha ha! They “got” me again. Hey, a kiss is a kiss and I’ll take it any way it comes, even with dog slobber!