As soon as I saw the Caller ID read the name of my son’s school, I knew that my day would be ruined. Teachers don’t call mid day to tell you that your child is having a great day, or that school is sure your child is a genius. Schools only call with bad news like some other kid stuck his foot in your kid’s lunch. Or worse yet, your kid is sick and you have to come get him even though he was fine 27 minutes ago when you dropped him off. I braced myself for the worst and answered the phone.
“Everything’s fine,” Balthazar’s teacher said. “But he’s complaining about a stomach ache. He says he needs to come home.”
I tried to cover up my disappointment. This was going to be my uninterrupted workday, my day to get things done.
“Sorry,” his teacher said as the wind flew out of my sails.
“No problem,” I said. “I’ll come get him.”
“Bye,” she said.
“Bye,” I said. “ I love you.”
Neither of us said a word.
I started to sweat. My mind fast-forwarded to lunchtime when I would undoubtedly become the laughing stock of the teacher’s lunchroom.
I pictured my son’s high school graduation, when I’d probably still be known as the parent who said, “I love you” to a teacher.
I opened my mouth to say, “I didn’t mean that. I wasn’t paying attention. I’m so used to saying ‘I love you’ to Justin as I hang up that I just said it to you…” But, I didn’t. I said nothing and instead, waited for his teacher to hang up.
Since becoming a parent I’ve accidentally told four different parents at school that I love them, one of whom was a man.
I told a UPS Man I loved him and we weren’t even on his normal route. Not surprisingly, he never came back.
I’ve said I love you to the dry cleaner who sometimes drops our clothing off at my house on his way home to his.
And I’ve changed hair salons at least twice to avoid the humiliation of facing the receptionist, hair washer, or stylist to whom I mistakenly proclaimed my love.
Each and every time I do profess my love to someone I don’t love, I’m left feeling like an embarrassed criminal as if there’s nothing worse that could happen to someone than the potential of being loved by me.
Truthfully, the words I love you had never come easily to me. I’ve proclaimed my love for just a handful of people in my life, my husband and children being three of them.
Prior to dating Justin I told only one other boyfriend I loved him. When I said, “I love you,” he responded by saying, “Cool,” before returning to his full time job of looking at himself in the mirror. The humiliation alone caused me to impose a self-proclaimed embargo on speaking about love. The rejection was just too much and a constant reminder of what I had always suspected, that my love was cool but never something that would be returned.
When I met Justin, I finally had someone to return my mistaken I love you’s. Love, as it turns out, was the first thing I’d been really good at and our I love you’s were never an accident. After a lifetime of thinking I was good at nothing, I turned out to be good at love. I love the daylights out of my family, and I tell them all the time.
And sometimes I tell them so much that I forget who I’m talking to. Then I tell someone I don’t love that I do love them. That’s where the embarrassment sets in.
But as the words I love you came out of my mouth and I feared I’d have to find my son a new school, I realized love is nothing to be embarrassed about. Instead of dreading my son’s parent/teacher conference, I’m going to walk with my head held high. And the next time I see the UPS truck, I just might say I love you on purpose.
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