An interesting thing happened at dinner yesterday. My wife said something and I rolled my eyes at her. Not in a mean or vicious way, but in a “Ok, Ok..I get it” kind of way. I can admit there were better ways to handle my mild frustration.

My twelve year old got upset and said, “You guys are always grumpy lately.” We were both taken off guard because our relationship is amazing. It’s full of joy and laughter. I had told my wife I love her ten times in the hour I had been home. Granted, when we disagree my wife always is wrong but that’s normal. Right? For my own safety I must point out that was a joke.

So we talked about it why she was feeling this way. We can all be selective about the cues we choose to focus on. This is one of those cases. Kids can’t imagine the the depth of what love can be. So they focus on what they understand which can be the visual and superficial. It doesn’t make her feelings any less real to her. Dismissing them will only make her reluctant to share them again.

It’s also important to point out that she’s lost a mom. And a family. Her biological mother and I separated about a year and half before she died. It’s only natural that a kid that has been through that would be sensitive to the slightest perceived disruption in peace and harmony.

We talked about how love doesn’t have to look like what she thinks it looks like. There are infinite possibilities and Disney didn’t create them all. We talked about how we have a million interactions a day – almost all wonderful. We talked about how people disagree and that’s OK and healthy. When we challenge each other we grow as people and as partners. Finally, we explained that our love for each other underpins everything, even our disagreements.

She wasn’t satisfied with any of these answers and made that quite clear. Her and her sister went upstairs to put laundry away. What can I say? They are great kids 🙂

But I couldn’t leave it at that. I wanted them to understand more of what love means. I went upstairs and we sat down. I told them I was going to try to explain what it meant for me to love their mom.

“I used to have a really big problem with alcohol. You know that. But what you don’t know is why I stopped. I stopped because Mommy helped me see what I was doing. She believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. She loved me enough to convince me that I could be better. A better dad and a better husband, friend and son. And she never gave up on me. Think about what it would mean to you if someone loved you that much.

“You know all this stuff I’m doing? Speaking, writing, maybe getting a book published, helping people…all that? I love it and I’m so, so excited about it all. I’m doing it because Mommy helped me see all the possibilities around me. She helped me start to believe that I was capable of doing great and wonderful things. She taught me how to see opportunities instead of obstacles. She helped change the way I look at the world. Try to imagine how that makes me feel about Mommy.

“And, she was happily willing to become your mom and she loves you so much. She has made me a better person and changed my life for the better, forever. I’m a better everything because of her and I am so grateful. I have never felt this way about another human being. Ever. And it feels incredible. That’s what my love for mommy is. So don’t get too hung up on an eye roll every few weeks.”

Did it help? I can’t see how a dad expressing the depth of his love for their mom could possibly hurt.