Roman is the rambunctious ball of energy that came into our lives in 2011. At the time he was living in an orphanage in Sosnovoborsk, Russia and we were trying to adopt him as our son. We had read all about the risks of international adoption and were fully prepared for fetal alcohol syndrome, attachment disorders or any of the other issues that cause adoptive children to struggle making emotional connections.
Instead we got a little boy who enthusiastically fell into our family and, quite frankly, is a bit more affectionate than your typical Adcox. He loves a good hug and isn’t ashamed to publicly cry out “I love you” whenever the urge strikes him. In fact, the last several months he’s done this really cute thing whenever we did or said something he found awesome. He would run up with a big smile on his face, hug your leg tightly and pronounce with extra emotion in his voice, “I love you!”
It was touching and made you feel like you were someone special. But then last week he suddenly altered the routine. He still responds with a smile and a leg hug, but now he affectionately says “I like you sometimes.” For example, when I told him we were going to the baseball game with his cousin he squealed with delight, ran up to me with open arms and excitedly said “Aww, I like you sometimes Daddy.” Gee, thanks.
He’s kept it up for more than a week now and my reaction has moved from seeing it as something funny to seeing it as something profound. Perhaps, it’s less robust than his original expression of love or maybe it’s just another, more honest, way of saying the same thing. Because that’s how it works with family.
I like you sometimes.
Not all the time because sometimes you get on my nerves.
And sometimes you hurt my feelings.
And sometimes you do me wrong.
But at the end of the day, we’re still family, and I like you.
I’ve tried to pinpoint why the phrasing changed. Is it because he’s started testing more boundaries and, consequently, started to getting in more trouble? Or is it because he’s growing up and realizing that family is more complex than blanket expressions of love? Or is it something he heard on SpongeBob SquarePants?
The latter is my best guess, but it’s still something to think about. “I like you sometimes” is an fair expression of love because it acknowledges our shortcomings, limitations and the natural ebb and flow of feelings. Sometimes our family can be hard to love (much less like) so why not be up front about it?
“I like you sometimes” is not an insult. It’s truth. A toddler inspired expression of emotion that accurately speaks to what it’s like to live with and love another human being. So to my son Roman, I say with all the love I can muster. I like you sometimes. And I can’t wait to see what you teach me next.