What is love?


One of my favorite recent pictures, from last October, with my parents, on the water.  I used the photo on this year’s Valentine card.

I’ve long believed that love – actually, life itself – resides in small things.  Yes, roses on Valentine’s Day are nice and weddings can be powerfully moving and the toast at a big birthday celebration carries all kinds of importance.  But day by day, hour by hour, we show people that we love them through our smallest acts.

There are three people in the world that I love the most.  You may have noticed that I write about two of them less and less (and one of them, almost never, though that’s not a change).  Grace and Whit are growing into their own stories, and it feels trickier and trickier to share them here.  In this case, I was very curious about what love looks like for them.  So I asked them.


Love is when Mum tucks me in at night and listens to me talk about my day.  It’s when she stops doing something important to help me when I need it.  Love is sacrificing some of the things she loves for us – like going out to dinner with friends or reading by herself.  Love is when she thinks of new recipes and makes something new for family dinner.  Love is keeping the kitchen stocked.  Love is sitting in cold rinks and cheering us on at hockey games (though not too loud).  Love is letting us go to sleep away camp even though I know she misses us.


Love is when Mum snuggles with me at bedtime every night.  It is when she reads me Harry Potter.  When she doesn’t pick up the phone so she can be with me.  When she makes us dinner.  I know 90% of her life right now is work but the other 10% is caring about us and that is love.  She does things that try to make our lives better.  Love is driving around the world constantly to get us places.  Love is when she goes to the library and picks out lots of books for me to see what I like.


I really enjoyed this exercise.  Sometimes the things we think mean the most don’t, and vice versa.  Nobody mentioned lunchbox notes, for example, which I write sporadically but not always, and nobody mentioned presents at all.  In fact neither of them mentioned things.  I recommend asking those you live with or love the most what touches them the most.  And then do more of that.

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  1. Posted February 23, 2015 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    I love this. It’s as if you read my mind – I too am struggling with writing about my kids, and wondering if it is no longer appropriate, or in their best interests. Letting them have their own voice in your writing as you did here is a great idea. And I love the cheering at hockey games…”but not too loud;)” xoxo

    admin Reply:

    Definitely NOT too loud – that is an importance nuance! xox

  2. Posted February 23, 2015 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    It does become trickier to write about our kids as they get older and my tweens are the ones I am most protective of (and they usually do not want me writing about them). But I am so glad you shared this! I will do this with my kids for sure. I love what your kids said about love! And I love that they both connected love with food. My 18-year-old just had to write a note of gratitude to my husband and me that he gave us on senior night for basketball. He said that he appreciates that we (i) have food for him when he gets home late from games or practices. Such a simple, no-brainer for us as moms, but through this simple act of thoughtfully feeding our kids, they feel love. Thank you for sharing this beautiful post, Lindsey. Love it :)!

    admin Reply:

    Oh, I love that your 18 year old recognized that that is a gesture of love. I always think of that Elizabeth Gilbert line in EPL when she talks to her sister about a family with a sick child, and she thinks to herself that that family needs grace, and her sister says the family needs casseroles. And how casseroles can BE grace. I definitely learned that from my mother.

  3. Posted February 23, 2015 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    Interesting to hear what your kids say. Also interesting to have their voices coupled with your comment at the opening about how it gets trickier to write about them as they grow. I find that I rarely write about my kids, having always struggled with the question of whose stories these are to tell. But on the other side of the coin, my kids are always asking me to tell stories about them when they were little. I suspect the balance will end up just right, and your two will be glad both for the wealth of words from when they were younger and the respectful spaces you protect as they grow into their own.

    admin Reply:

    I hope you are right. I was interested that neither child mentioned all the things I write to them, but hopefully they will someday see those as what they are, pure expressions of love. I backed away from writing a full-blown memoir about raising a tween in part because I just could not get comfortable writing about my daughter so intimately in this particular moment. xox

  4. Posted February 23, 2015 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    I love this! And totally want to do it with my kids. I think its interesting that a lot of what they had to say was about how you make time for them. (Everything comes back to time.) And apparently about making food too. Also I love the library books – I totally do that. I love wandering the library looking for books that may interest my boys – its like christmas morning when I bring them home and we go through the bag!

    admin Reply:

    It all comes back to time and attention … I really think so! I love that we both love the library, though. xox

  5. Posted February 23, 2015 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    I’m totally asking Maddy this later. And I’m laughing about the lunch notes. I write a short one every day and only ONE TIME has she ever noted it…because I put a My Little Pony sticker on it. Alas. Love how your children appreciate (and equate love with) your attention to them, maybe especially most at night. And food. Can’t have love without a full fridge, right? Great post for a manic Monday.

    admin Reply:

    I honestly didn’t prompt them and was really struck how it’s as simple (and as hard) as just being present with them.

  6. Posted February 23, 2015 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    Lindsey: Love this perspective from Whit and Grace. I’ve always believed that love is a billion little things that we cannot necessary quantify as they are happening, but in retrospect, we understand its reach.

    admin Reply:

    Yes. I believe that too! xox

  7. Posted February 23, 2015 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    Per my 3 year old, love is “kisses goodnight”. He was sitting next to me as I read this so I asked him. I absolutely love both Grace and Whit’s responses. Yes to love reflected in the small actions of our days. I too have been questioning how much I want to continue writing about my children, especially Mia, and I think that’s largely why I haven’t been posting as much. Trying to figure out where to go from here.

    admin Reply:

    Oh, I love imagining him sitting next to you as you read! I’m trying to figure that out, too. xox

  8. Posted February 23, 2015 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    How awesome is this. I can’t wait to ask the girls this same question…

    admin Reply:

    I am interested to hear what they say! xox

  9. Posted February 23, 2015 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

    Totally going to ask them this week. I am going to put out a request to the wide universe that their answers are as non-material as W and G’s. (PS: Love this photo of them. LOVE.) xo

    admin Reply:

    Thank you, dear one! Sending you lots of love. xoxo

  10. Posted February 23, 2015 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

    Love is knowing a best friend’s children.

  11. Posted February 24, 2015 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    What a precious snapshot in time- you will cherish those words as they grow. I love the idea of asking them this through the years- even though mine are teens I might just start.

  12. Posted February 26, 2015 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

    My favorite part is that both of them basically answered, “Mom is love.” What a gift that they both thought of you and all you do for them as the embodiment of love…because of course it is. I look forward to sharing this on Project Underblog’s Friday Favorites tomorrow!

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