I Love You x

Mia is often the spokesperson for both girls

3 small words. Too often spoken. Not said enough. 

"I love you."

Our daughter Natty, Natalia, Noo Noo is very vocal, very chatty, little girl with Down's Syndrome.
She's had speech therapy over her 5 and a half years, half-heartedly from local SALT sources, (because they are under-resourced), and once a year from a UK top private therapist who visits all our local children when we've fund-raised enough to bring her down. In between it's Mummy and Daddy who provide the additional help. Thank goodness my background is in teaching...

We tell our children we love them all the time, many times a day. Natty has begun to repeat those words, copy us parrot fashion over the last 6 months.

Tonight, as I lay next to her in her crisp white, pink-dotted bed, after reading Where The Wild Things Are and acting out the comedy 'terrible roars' and 'gnashing our terrible teeth', she looked at me, squished me close and said;

"Mummy, I love you."

The perfectly articlulated sentence pierced my ears and filled my heart all at once.
My head said "Good talking Natty", but my heart melted. It crumbled, tears welled, despite my trying to hide them.  In 5 and a half years I have not heard this phrase spontaneously spoken. A phrase that I heard from Mia at around 14 months as I recall. Back then it brought tears to my eyes, when it arrived, on cue, as expected...

"Mummy sad?" asked Natty.

I bit my tongue and coughed. Smiled and squeezed her hard. Smiled like a Cheshire cat.
"Noooo, Mummy is crying because Mummy is happy" Much Makaton was used to reinforce the message.

We snuggled and I said goodnight, Daddy and I swapped children and he and Natty had their snuggles too while Mia and I read Clarice Bean together. But the lump remained in my throat.

Coming downstairs and reflecting on hearing that phrase, the phrase that all family relationships pivot around, brought the tears back. I realised that I had told myself that not hearing those words spontaneously was not an issue. It didn't matter. I had buried the feeling of wanting to hear them, smothered it in pride about Natty's other achievements, taken her hugs and kisses as supplements for the phrase itself.

Mia says it all often, draws pictures even, to show us how much she is loved, and that has always filled the void. It has more than made up for hearing the spoken phrase x2.

But at the same moment I realised that Mia is saying it less often, only when she really means it. She's 8 and has suddenly lost her chubby cheeks, replaced by racehorse legs and a bob haircut. Wanting to be at my apron strings has been filled by a desire to be an Olympic dressage rider/actor/poet. Creating some art masterpiece at 7am has become the new creeping into bed with us in the morning.

And so, in one stroke, we have a gorgeous little person realising what love is, grateful for her family and drawing us further into her intricate personality with 3 little words. And another, slightly older person, finding her wings, stable and confident in our love for her, and discovering her first footing in the world, using her family as the bow from which her arrow will spring.

That too makes me weep with tears of pride but tears of sorrow at the infant phase now lost.

This summer has been a line drawn in the sand indeed.

Read our words of love to our daughters, written in a letter at the beginning of term Mummy and Daddy Love You Both More Than Words Can Say.