23 October 2011


It was Maddie's turn this weekend.

Like her brother, she was more quiet on this trip than she typically is when in Riley's company. Part of that can be chalked up to not feeling well—she's had a cold to varying degrees since starting school in early September, and this weekend things hit a particularly low point—but some of it also seems to be a phenomenon of not being so chatty when there's no one to compete with. Or maybe when I'm listening to half as much talking it just seems quiet. Hmmm.

We had a really nice, relaxing time. We started with some shopping on the way out of town, stocking up on spices at Penzey's (Maddie is very olfactory and loved sniffing all the sample jars) and then picking up some fun bath stuff at Lush (I'm addicted to the Grass shower gel and we got Maddie a super fun bath bomb. We arrived at the beach to dismal weather, but chose to hit the pool, try out the bath bomb, eat some dinner, watch a movie, and snuggle up in bed together for an early night.

Maddie fell asleep almost immediately. It had been a long day, she was not feeling well, and we stayed up "late" for the movie. As she fell asleep and then throughout the night, her sleeping habits called to my mind the 5 Love Languages. OK, I know: SO HOKEY! I had never heard of the 5 Love Languages until, oh, over a year ago when a guy I went out with a few times mentioned them and the idea kind of stuck with me. I've still not read any of the books, but I tend to like these overly simplistic ways of categorizing emotions, actions, and feelings; I find these broad ways of categorizing behavior useful when trying to identify what's important to me and for gaining perspective on actions of others that seem otherwise without any identifiable motivation.

So the love languages, for those not familiar, are: physical touch, quality time, acts of service, words of affirmation, and receiving gifts. I put them in the order for which they resonate for me. The first two are pretty much tied as far as I'm concerned, with the second two being also tied and totally meh, and the last one (gifts) a distant, distant last. But that's neither here nor there. What I started to wonder about, as I was all snuggled in with Maddie, was how early a preference for one language over another might start to manifest. It's clear to me that for Maddie, as for myself, physical touch is very important. Even in sound sleep, that child could seek me out and needed contact with me even if just with a finger. I kept waking up to find a hand on my shoulder, a foot on my leg, her whole body pressed against mine. If I would move away (HOT!!!), she'd fling out an arm, searching for me, or scootch closer, closer, closer, until she made contact.

Riley's pretty sunggly, to be sure, but not at this base even-while-sleeping level. In fact, I'm not sure what I'd say his primary love language is at this point. Maybe quality time? I think all kids love some quality time; that's certainly big for Maddie, too. And receiving gifts! What child does not love to receive a gift!

I'm sure the Love Langauges people have something to say about when and how these preferences develop and how they change, or don't, over time. I haven't bothered to look into that. But it was nice, for two of us who feel emotionally fulfilled by that physical closeness, to snuggle up together and listen to the waves. As another example of that, we sat right up next to each other at dinner, on a bench on the same side of the table rather than across from each other as the menus had been set out.

The Love Languages people say that we are often drawn to partners who do not share the same linguistic priorities. I have seen friend couples for whom this is true, and it can be quite stressful. John and I were totally on the same page about this. We always held hands, and he was especially good at doing things for me that he knew I didn't enjoy doing for myself (acts of service). We were slightly out of phase on quality time (he needed more alone time than I did, which I sometimes took too personally), but we never gave each other gifts and that was fine with both of us. Whew. This all strikes me as a morning person/night person kind of thing: it's super helpful when both people in a couple are on the same page, and when not, it's way more stressful than it seems it should be. Insurmountable? Probably not, but nice to have an awareness.

And so I had a special appreciation of my time with my snuggly girl last night. I reminded myself of how important that touch was to her as she did that typical small child thing of turning herself completely around more than once in the night and connecting to me physically by kicking me in the face. It comes from a place of love, right? It comes from a place of love.


RG said...

We had to read the Five Love Languages as part of our pre-marriage counseling. We also had to read some other cheesy book. We also found it kind of useful to talk over which things we preferred. Our lists were similar - not exact, but similar.

Glad you are making time for each kid alone. I have two (not twins, but close in age), and lots of times I want to do that, too.

Anonymous said...

I would love to hear your thoughts on how Steve Jobs survived for so long with pancreatic cancer--and why most don't. I loved your crazy sexy cancer piece and want to hear more of that voice.

Karen O said...

I'm a fan from MN who was in the Portland area last weekend visiting family. My husband and I also spent a couple of days at the beach in dismal weather. While in Portland, I thought about the odds of running into you, but it never occurred to me that I could also have run into you at the beach!

Dismal weather notwithstanding, we had a great time and I'm glad to hear you and Maddy did too.

Anonymous said...

the Five Love Languages has been very helpful for me as a companion, a parent, and Aunt to many neices and nephews.
I am divorced and now dating my high school boyfriend again (!)after 25 years. He and I are physical touch people. He said he has always remembered how I touched him all the time, his arm, back, holding hands, and has always longed for that kind of affection in his past relationships but didnt get it. Neither did I in mine. I agree there is something peaceful with having this language in common. I always felt misunderstood and rejected in the past by my husband ( who didnt even want to be touched intimately!)

Anonymous said...

There's a book on the love languages for kids - it's great on how to tell what language(s) work best for your kids and how to help fill them back up when their tank is low.

Mary Ellen said...

What a terrific tradition to create (or continue) with each of your short people.

OTRgirl said...

Catching up a bit. I love that you did overnights with each of the twins. Those sound like wonderful memories. I'm also happy to hear that your quietly and happily dating!

As for the love languages, I have read the book. I like that it gives a basis for discussing differences and values.

My husband and I both share a value on quality time and could care less about gifts most of the time. In other ways though, we're opposites. Even in terms of quality time, our approach is dissimilar. One of the subcategories of quality time is quality activity. He's happy if we just sit on the couch and talk, where I'd rather talk as we do something fun together.

I need verbal affirmation and he grew up in a culture that actively discourages it! I've had to literally ask him on occasions to 'say nice things to me'. The good thing is that he does! For him, it's acts of service and that's the hardest one for me to do. Somehow we've made it work, but it's been challenging. Worthwhile, obviously, and having the love language framework has helped us discuss those differences and figure out work-arounds.

~lifedramatic~ said...

I swear you are /were on twitter. Maybe I'm crazy or my iPhone is failing me. Anyway, I somehow convinced my husband we needed to go to LUSH today... Thank God he left the store. I got so carried away. I totally blame you!! Please pray he doesn't ask me how much I spent. Thank goodness I had cash on me!!!!!!

Wanderoke said...

The loss of touch....and the joy of finding some.
What a wonderful read. Thank you.