All 12 of us still living (age 62 to 80) from my original family were never brought up to express the words “I love you.” Sadly, even though I believe we do love each other, some of us (even as adults) are still not able to say those three important words and even if we hear them said to us some of my siblings are not comfortable enough to say them back. Lately, in an effort to change that, I’ve been doing a deliberate test (when talking with any of my siblings on the phone) by saying, “I love you.” The reaction I’ve gotten so far is total shock followed by silence because some of them cannot say it back. I will usually get a compliment of some kind in return instead. A few of my mentally healthy and successful siblings, like “Missy,” have been able to rise above the dysfunctional way we were raised and no longer have a problem with freely expressing those three important words.
Unfortunately, not everybody can always get over the damage that was done. Many parents do not realize the damage they do to their children by not doing or saying certain things. I never once throughout my entire childhood with more than a dozen kids and my parents in the house ever hear anyone say, “I love you,” not even between my parents. Divorce rates are high but even in families that stay together there are very few truly “healthy” home environments. I believe the majority of Americans grow up in dysfunctional homes and then we wonder why our country is so full of problems. Until we talk about it and bring these things out in the open, can we make people aware to try to change things for the better — one family at a time or one family member at a time. After all, it all begins in the home.