habit: a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.
“Gimme The Kiss.”
The Kiss is Josh’s invention. We have to kiss goodnight no matter what, even if we’re fighting or one of us has fallen asleep before the other. When one of us is out of town, it’s over the phone by voice or text: “kiss, kiss. luv u.”
“Night-night-see-you-in-the-morning-love-you,” the girls trill out from their beds as I shut each of their doors for the night. “Night-night-see-you-in-the-morning-love-you,” I sing back. We are like love birds in the night. If they are away, we get a text, “NNSYITMLY” followed by a string of kissy face emoji.
On planes we always hold hands on take off and landing. Now that we are five, we need two rows. Our clasped hands form an awkward loop through the seats or an unbroken line across the aisle – a joint promise of love and protection.
We have a family whistle.
These are the habits of love, tender traditions that tether us to each other. They are beautiful and perfect and completely ours.
Why then do I find myself blowing them off?
I forget to give Josh The Kiss. I am startled when Ruby calls out to me before I close her door, my feet already across the threshold itching to step into the hallway. On our last plane trip together, Ella had to uncurl my fingers from Us magazine when we were taking off.
In the beginning of our marriage, Josh and I held each other close, kissed each other everywhere, called and checked in, snuggled up. Then the children came and we made room for them between us, lavishing them with our hearts, teaching them the habits of love. Our love didn’t wane, but caught up in parenthood and careers, we relied more and more on the habits of love to express our affections.
Now, though, I’ve fallen off the habit wagon. I am distracted by deadlines and requests from so-and-so about such-and-such. I am worried about a particular friendship that feels like it’s going south, coordinating carpools gone awry and wondering if my 6th grader will make it into the advanced math class next year. I am making time to write. My brain fills with endless words, both real and made up, my fingers fly across the keyboard, my pen across the page.
Maybe I am taking my beloveds for granted, convincing myself that they don’t need the routine reminding of my love. Don’t they know I pour my love into their lunches, making fresh sandwiches in the morning, selecting a different favorite snack for each girl, slicing up the apples, sneaking in a Hershey’s Kiss underneath the napkin? Doesn’t he see the deeper meaning in his clean socks, the made bed, the neat stack of Wired magazines on his side table?
Maybe, but our everyday love sprinkled every once in a while by the grand gesture is meant to be the cake. The habits of love are the icing, the deep sweetness that makes the love whole. In our family, there’s no point in having only half a dessert.
Our habits of love. They are not the kind of habits I want to break.
I’m participating in the 2014 A to Z Challenge during the month of April using the very broad theme of LOVE to carry me through the alphabet. Check out writing by other bloggers taking on the #atozchallenge at @AprilA2Z.