Holden has been saying "I love you" to me since he was about 1. Whenever I say it, he repeats it to me, usually in exactly the same phrasing. "I love you, sweetie," sounds adorable coming out of a 1 year old, by the way. But I know Holden doesn't really know what that means yet. He's learned to repeat the phrase just like "please" and "thank you." It's just what you do.
Not so with Hollis. Hollis has never been a big one for saying anything when he knows it's expected. We only won the "please" and "thank you" battle by withholding whatever Hollis wanted until he gave in. He's a stubborn little cuss (no idea where he gets that), so if there's nothing in it for him he refuses to perform like a trained monkey. Consequently, I had never heard "I love you" from Hollis until a few days ago.
Three nights ago our sitter's son was playing in the junior high football city championships. (They won by the way. WOOOOT!) Our sitter, M, took the boys to the game and T and I met them there and stayed to watch some of the game. This wasn't the boys' first football game. They've been to a couple of other games and loved it. Holden likes to cheer with the cheerleaders and Hollis enjoys stomping on the bleachers and pointing out M's son to everyone he meets.
T and I found M and the boys and climbed up the bleachers to sit down. Holden immediately flung himself into my arms, as he usually does, but Hollis said "Hi, Mommy" and went back to his stomping of the bleachers. After Holden wiggled away, Hollis came over to tell me about his day.
When Hollis approached, a big play happened on the field and T, sitting in front of me, picked up Hollis so he could see over the crowd. Hollis looked back at me and said "I want Mommy to hold me, OK?" When T handed him back to me, Hollis threw his arms around my neck and squeezed as tightly as he could and gave me a kiss. Then he looked right into my eyes, smiled and said, "I love you, Mommy," as the crowd roared around us.
I don't remember the first time Holden parroted "I love you" back to me. But I know I'll never forget my first, "I love you," from Hollis.