Home US My mom only told me she loved me once. That’s why I tell my daughters that all the time, says Daisy Goodwin.

My mom only told me she loved me once. That’s why I tell my daughters that all the time, says Daisy Goodwin.

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Daisy Goodwin with her mother Jocata. As a child, the only time I remember my mother telling me that she loved me was when she explained to my brother and me that she would never live with us again, she writes.

I love you darling.’ “I love you too, mom.” It’s the call and response that ends every phone conversation with one of my daughters. Sometimes I will be the one professing love first, sometimes they will, but we know something is wrong if it doesn’t happen. It’s not a big deal, but I know I feel better if we made the effort.

They are now 23 and 32 and have both left home, but we talk most days on the phone.

It’s casual, but like so many seemingly casual exchanges in families, it’s loaded with meaning. For my part, I tell my daughters that no matter what happens to them that day, they should know that I will always love them, unconditionally.

Daisy Goodwin with her mother Jocata. As a child, the only time I remember my mother telling me that she loved me was when she explained to my brother and me that she would never live with us again, she writes.

I may be upset that they left behind the handmade snood I spent weeks knitting for them, or that they “borrowed” my favorite earrings, but that doesn’t change the fundamentals.

As long as I’m around, you’ll have a springboard of affection that will always cushion your fall. It won’t stop things from hurting or protect them from damage, but it’s there.

Of course, you may be reading this and thinking I’m stating the obvious: Don’t all parents feel the same way about their children? And if so, why do you need to tell them all the time? Surely actions speak louder than increasingly meaningless statements.

Some argue that the phrase “I love you” has become so ubiquitous (said casually to everyone from colleagues and new acquaintances to store clerks and particularly helpful waiters) that it seems cheapened.

When presenter Stacey Solomon professed her love for her husband and son several times a minute, as well as telling new families she meets, during her BBC show Sort Your Life Out recently, critics asked her to refrain.

Aren’t we really failing as parents, they argue, if we have to keep telling our increasingly spoiled children that we love them? Surely a child with proper upbringing should know that he is loved without the need for all the acting and verbal pats on the head?

To those people I can only say this: you are lucky. Only people who were lucky enough to grow up taking love for granted could be so dismissive or irritated by those three little words.

Having a father who constantly reminds you how much he loves and values ​​you is a priceless gift.

Daisy with her daughter Lydia.

Daisy with her daughter Lydia. “I’ve always been careful to tell my kids I love them when they don’t pass a test or get the job they wanted,” she says.

My daughters need to know ¿and also hear¿ that my affection is not something they can win or lose, writes Daisy, photographed with her daughter Ottilie in New York.

My daughters need to know, and also hear, that my affection is not something they can win or lose, writes Daisy, photographed with her daughter Ottilie in New York.

I was five years old when my parents divorced. My mother, the interior designer and food writer Jocasta Innes, left my father Richard, a film producer, for a younger man and a different life than the one that made her so unhappy.

As a child, the only time I remember my mother telling me she loved me was when she explained to my younger brother and me that she would never live with us again.

‘Do you not love us anymore?’ I asked.

“Of course I love you, silly goose, but I have to live somewhere else,” she replied.

Already at the age of five, I knew that when your mother tells you that she loves you, there should be no buts.

I had a friend in elementary school whose mother always used to hug and kiss her at the school gate when she left. My friend used to blush and push her away, but I remember how envious I was of that unconditional hug.

I couldn’t help but feel that if I had been more adorable, then my mother would still be living at home. It took me a lifetime and two children to realize that my mother’s decision to leave was just that, her decision, and that I had no responsibility for taking her away from her.

My parents spent the next two years fighting for custody of me and my younger brother, a battle my father ultimately won. During these years, we children were sent to live with my paternal grandmother.

I still remember her lavender-scented hugs from Yardley and the sturdy tweed lap. But most of all I remember her saying to me: ‘I love you very much, dear Daisy.’

She always told my brother and me how much she loved us. It was a warm corner of comfort in an otherwise bleak and disconcerting landscape. At a time when my mother had practically disappeared and my father was working abroad, this was something to hold on to.

Children are literal creatures and hearing the words, without being prompted, is important. My grandmother had lived in India when she was young and, like so many Britons living there at the time, she sent her children, including my father, to boarding school in England when they were very young.

I suspect she had always regretted not having her children with her, and her constant reminders of how much she cared about us were filled with words she hadn’t been able to say to them.

It’s tempting today, when we seem to be in the midst of a mental health epidemic, to long for the simpler times of my grandparents’ generation, when feelings were felt, not expressed, much less medicalized.

But I think it’s good now that parents and children can talk openly about their love for each other without shame. When I see my male friends hugging and kissing their older children, I feel nothing but relief.

As an adult, I have always been fascinated by difficult relationships between mother and daughter; I write about the conflictive relationship between opera singer María Callas and her mother Litza in my new novel, Diva.

Maria was not the favorite child and Litza barely noticed her until Maria started showing off her incredible talent. Litza told her that she loved her only when she sang, so young María grew up feeling that the only adorable thing about her was her voice.

That kind of conditional love is very difficult to overcome. When the soprano’s voice began to fail, it was a double blow: not only was she losing her livelihood, but she was also losing, she thought, the only reason anyone would love her.

When I was seven years old my father remarried and my brother and I went to live with him and my stepmother. Being a stepmom is not an easy role, and I don’t blame mine for not bathing in unconditional affection. But all her smiles were for a job well done, not simply for existing.

His attitude often left me feeling like the only thing worthwhile about me was that I was good at exams.

That’s why I’ve always been careful to tell my children that I love them when they don’t pass a test or get the job they wanted.

They need to know (and also hear) that my affection is not something they can win or lose.

When my daughters were little, I used to read them a book called Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney.

It features Big Nutbrown Hare and Little Nutbrown Hare, who compete against each other to express how much they love each other. “I love you to the moon and back,” says the Nut Hare.

My children always tried to be better than the Moon; to the universe and back, to the chocolate factory and back.

My mother would have thought the book was cloying and silly, but I was reassured that it openly addressed this fundamental childhood question: Is a mother’s love really infinite?

I didn’t really care how many times I read it.

It’s not just my kids who get the “I love you” treatment. I tell other family members when I say goodbye, because I love them and also because if I get hit by a bus, I want to leave them with a good memory.

Now I also tell it to my closest friends, although they don’t always tell me; Friends of 30 years deserve to be appreciated.

It is a problem unique to the English language that we have to use one word for all the different types of love: parental, friendship, patriotism and romantic.

He may say it often, but always with intention; is not at all the verbal equivalent of the ‘xoxoxo’ I put at the end of emails.

The question is, I suppose, whether declaring to my daughters that I love them makes me a more loving mother.

In my experience the answer is emphatically yes. In the same way that just the act of smiling can improve your mood even when you’re completely miserable, I think telling a child, a friend, or a partner that you love them takes you a little further in that direction.

And if anyone thinks that all this expression of love makes children needy, then I can only say that, in my experience, that is not the case.

The people who made me feel safe and self-sufficient as a child were my grandmother and my father, who smile every time I walk into a room.

Her consistency meant I was able to internalize her love and, unlike my mother’s distressing declaration, it made me feel optimistic about the world.

Believe me, no child was hurt when told their parents loved them.

It’s hard for parents to get it right and I would never claim to be the perfect mother. But at least my daughters know that I will always love them to the moon and back.

  • Daisy Goodwin’s novel Diva (£20, Head of Zeus) is available now.

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