At breakfast the other day, Abby made a rather astute observation about babies:
“Babies are a lot of work.”
I laughed. “Yes, that’s why it’s important to wait until you’re sure you want a baby before you have one.”
“And you need to be married,” she said.
Nothing like your 5-year-old calling you out for having a child out of wedlock. Still, I nodded. “You need to be with the person you want to spend the rest of your life with.”
Abby smiled a shy little smile. When she spoke, I could barely hear her. “I think I already know who I want to spend the rest of my life with.”
Eyes wide, I asked, “Who?”
“His name is Carver. When you came to school for lunch this week, he’s the boy who sat with us.”
Now Hold Up a Second
She’s five. Five years old.
I’M NOT READY FOR THIS.
Once I recovered from the shock, I asked, “How did you decide you wanted to marry Carver?”
“He started it.”
She smiled big. “At lunch one day, we were sitting next to each other and singing along to the same song. He turned to me and said, ‘Why don’t we get married?'”
“And what did you say?”
She laughed. “Nothing. I couldn’t respond!”
When I stopped to think about it, I realized she’s been commenting on kisses in movies lately. She catches me and Ty kissing and says “I saw you” in a teasing voice. She’s been asking questions about what it’s like to be in love. How you know.
And it reminded me of when I was a girl, when I wondered: How do you know when you’re in love?
This Is What They Tell You
When I was a kid, Sleepless in Seattle taught me about the signs of love:
“It was a million tiny little things that, when you added them all up, they meant we were supposed to be together…and I knew it. I knew it the very first time I touched her. It was like coming home, only to no home I’d ever known. I was just taking her hand to help her out of a car, and I knew. It was like…magic.”
In Anne of the Island, Gilbert and Anne taught me a little bit more:
“I’ve loved you ever since that day you broke your slate over my head in school.”
And I have a clear memory of asking someone, though I’m not sure who – my mom or my older, wiser sister – so maybe it’s not such a clear memory after all, but I asked: “How do you know when you’re in love?”
“You just know.”
But all this won’t fly with Abby. She’s a child who craves detailed explanations. She wants the concrete signs that you know you’re in love. That you’ve found The One.
I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I have learned some life lessons the hard way on what it means to be in love.
So when she’s a little older, here’s what I will say to Abby. Although, she might get a preview here and there in light of this Carver boy proposing marriage and all.
A Letter to My Daughter – The 12 Signs of Love
I can’t tell you how love will feel for you. Everyone is different with different ideas of what’s important, what’s attractive, what’s funny. I don’t know whether there’s one single person in the world whom you’re meant to be with, or if it’s all about finding one of the someones out there who could be a good fit for you. But I can tell you how I knew.
These are the signs that told me what I had with Ty was different. Something unique and special and precious.
By the way, I’ve said “he” throughout because this is based on my experience, but if your true love turns out to be a woman, own it. Don’t let anyone EVER make you feel weird for being yourself.
Here are 12 signs that you’re in love:
- You can talk about anything. Tough stuff, easy stuff, and everything in between. Conversation is easy and open and honest and (most of the time) fun.
- You can’t get enough of him. You spend all day together doing nothing terribly interesting or important, and you wake up the next morning wanting more.
- When he touches you, you feel a spark. Yes, like real electricity. Your skin will feel like it’s buzzing. Or maybe humming.
- When he kisses you, you may feel light-headed.
- When you’re running late in the morning getting out the door for work, and you realize you still need to pack your laptop bag and find where you threw your jacket when you came in the door last night AND you didn’t empty out your travel coffee mug, then you look on the kitchen counter and see everything all neatly lined up and ready to go, with hot, fresh coffee in your clean coffee mug – and then you get to the car and see that it’s already running WITH the butt warmers turned on…that’s love.
- He will love you just the way you are – flaws included – and never make you feel like you’re insufficient or broken or that you have to change to make him happy.
- He will listen.
- He will treat you like a queen. I don’t mean blindly worship the ground you walk on. I mean he will respect you, completely. He will trust you. He will adore you.
- He will be your biggest cheerleader. And he will believe in you even when you may not believe in yourself.
- Expect to hear a lot of compliments from him. He may tell you that you are: awesome, smart, beautiful, amazing, gorgeous, or all of the above.
- You may find yourself wanting to do nice things for him, just because. These may be things you don’t typically enjoy doing, but the thought of doing them for him will put a smile on your face and make you feel good inside. Maybe you will want to cook him dinner, even though you usually hate to cook. You might take the car to get washed because you know he cares about that, even though you don’t. You could surprise him by having cookies delivered to him at work, even though it means you WON’T get a cookie yourself.
- Speaking of which, if you find yourself giving away the last bite of dessert to the person you’re dating, that’s a 99.99% sure sign you’re in love.
Now, it may take you a while to find someone who fits the bill. You may date some losers along the way. It happens.
But that spark inside you? The one that lights up your eyes and makes you my beautiful Abby? The minute you get wind of someone you’re dating trying to snuff out that spark, you drop him like a dirty diaper. If he insults you, or makes fun of your ideas, or talks down to you like you’re stupid, or says you need dental work – he is not The One.
Sometimes you may not want to admit it when you realize you’re dating someone who’s not The One. Because it means you made a mistake. Because it’d be lonely if you left him. Because he’s really damn cute.
But please, dear, sweet Abby. If you’re not sure? Have the courage to let go. Learn and move on. Make room in your life for someone who truly and completely loves you.
Above all, trust yourself. Maybe the love you find will be different from what I found. You’re a smart girl. You’ll know when you find it.
p.s. When your baby sister comes to you with this question, can you please pass along the high points? From the defiance she’s showing at 8 months old, I’m pretty sure she won’t come to me and even if she did, I doubt she’d listen to what I have to say. Thanks, kid, I owe you one.
For more thoughts on love, follow my Pinterest board I and Love and You.
How do you know when you’re in love? Leave a comment to share your signs of true love.