When Isaac was a baby, he loved for me to hold him with his head on my shoulder and his body laying on mine. After giving him his bottle, I would gently pat his little butt and sing him made-up songs and he would drift off to dreamland. He didn’t like soft touches or for me to play with his hair. Making eye contact with me was too stimulating so I made sure when I wanted him to sleep that I wouldn’t look in his eyes for too long. What made him relax most was to lay on me and hear me singing over him.
Noah is very different.
He likes to lay cradled in my arms so he can see my face. When I try to sing to him it is too stimulating, so instead I pray softly or whisper how much I love him. He does like soft touches. His little eyelids begin to slowly shut when I run my fingers across his cheeks and forehead or through his baby-soft curls. But most of all, what helps him sleep the most is when I smile at him. Ever since he was a tiny baby, if I wanted him to calm down or to go to sleep, I would put my face close to his and smile.
We are all created to receive and give love and we all do so differently from one another. I love that I get to love each of my boys differently. It makes life so much more interesting and also more complicated. It took time for me to try different things with my boys until I realized what they preferred. This is part of building our relationship and it certainly wasn’t instant. When they were tiny babies I would cry and stress because I knew they needed something, but I didn’t know what it was. All I wanted to do was give them what they needed, but it took lots of trial and error to get there. Each day, we learn more about each other and we continue to build our relationship foundations. If I tried to love Noah like I love Isaac, Noah would feel like he wasn’t getting what he needed.
Of course, all relationships are this way; marriage, friendships, and even our relationship with God. It takes time to know how to love someone well and how to be loved well by others.
The ways we receive love from God are also unique. Some of us just need to lay with God in the quiet and listen to Him sing over us. Close our eyes and hear the joy and love in His voice. Feel the weight of His love as He wraps his arms around us and rocks us to sleep. Others need to see the face of God as He holds us near. We need to see the smile on His face as He softly whispers His love over us.
There is no one right way to love and be loved by God or by others. Don’t look around you to see how you should love or be loved, look inside yourself.
If you aren’t feeling loved, be vulnerable and tell people how you receive love. My boys are too young to know how to express what they need, but as we get older we are more aware and able to understand what makes our heart come alive. If you aren’t sure what you need, take some time to ask God how to receive love and then allow Him to show you. There is no one better to know your desires than the One who gave them to you. He is faithful to show you how to be loved and how to love back. If you aren’t sure how to love someone, ask them! Even God! You were given a unique way to love God that is like no one else.
Even though Isaac is no longer a baby, when he wakes up at night and needs to cuddle, he still likes to be held with his body on mine and his head on my shoulder. I love that just my smile gives Noah enough peace and comfort to fall asleep. How beautiful and special. As our relationship grows and as we grow, the ways we love each other will change. Each stage of our lives together will bring the opportunity to learn how to love them the way they need. It will forever be beautiful, unique, and complicated.
If you want to learn how to love and be loved better, you have to be vulnerable and open and brave.
What worked for you a few years ago, may be different now. Love is mysterious and ever-changing. It can’t be contained or pinned down. Love is wild and free. Being loved and loving others is the greatest thing you can do, but no one said it would be easy. But oh, it is so worth it.