Daughter loves her mama. That is the only thing that explains why, year after year, she drags herself out of bed at 3:00am two mornings in a row to run with me in the Disney World Fairy Tale Challenge over Princess Half Marathon Weekend. She hates to run. Lest you think I'm kidding, let me tell you that although she is an awesome personal trainer, she runs only two days a year, both of them at Disney (ah, to be young enough to run 19.3 miles over two days with no running training!). She really hates to run. So, why does she do it? If you ask her, she will go into a long story about how the first year I ran, she didn't, and she swore that if she had to get up that early again, she'd better be running. There are a lot of people who line the race course who also get up that early, but who would never think that they should just get out there and run too. No, she runs because it is something we do together, just the two of us. It's our thing. We plan the costumes. We plan the character stops. I pace myself to her. No matter how much she hurts, she always kicks the last 100 yards to try to beat me (and usually succeeds. I have no kick). She starts wondering aloud why she's doing it at mile 7 of the half marathon, and by mile 9, she just wants to finish. It's what we do, and I so appreciate she does it with me. I enjoy doing it by myself, but I love it more with her.
What's important about Daughter and Princess Half Marathon Weekend is twofold. First, that Daughter does it for us; and second, that I appreciate the gift. I don't ask her to run every race of the year with me; I don't expect her to run this weekend with me. I treat it as the gift to our relationship that it is. That last sentence is so important. What Daughter is giving is not a gift to me; it is a gift to our relationship which is given freely and generously. There are gifts I give to our relationship too, also freely and generously given. The gifts are not expectations. They are not demands. They are not one of a million gifts. They are jewels to be treasured - and I do.
Here in the Trenches, I see few gifts. Some couples never give each other gifts. Some have forgotten how to give gifts to each other. Certainly, they buy each other things (most of them, anyway), but they don't give each other the thing that sings to those they love. I am a big fan of Gary Chapman's The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts, because I do believe that each person has a way that for them communicates emotional connection. For those of you who haven't read Chapman's book, the five love languages are:
You might have guessed that I am an acts of service and quality time kind of girl. If you haven't guessed it, Daughter sure has. Some folks don't put a lot of stock in Chapman's theory, but I do, and here's why. Taking the time to figure out someone's love language and how to speak it, tells the ones for whom you care that you do indeed care enough about the relationship to make the effort. Even if the attempt is imperfect, just trying communicates caring and connection. Letting someone else who you love know your love language is scary. What if you let them know in every way possible how you want to be treated and how you want caring communicated, and they don't even make the attempt? Hmm, that's a problem for the relationship. What if you're an acts of service person, and they give you words of affirmation? Not so much of a problem, if they're words of affirmation folks and at least they are trying to communicate. Sometimes you have to adjust or educate, and in the end decide whether it is enough that they express love, even if it's not your core way. Relationships have their ups and downs. The depth of the connection often determines whether what goes down also comes up. When there is no up, I see you in my office. When there is effort at connection, I usually don't. Here in the Trenches.