The power of 'I love you'

I'm not sure young children understand the power of love -- how it can cut and bruise and shine.

They sure know how to use it, though, knowing they'll get a result, even if they don't know what effect they've had.

Katie and I were discussing whether she was going to the grocery store with me or staying home with Daddy.

Typically, Daddy would win hands down, but I was stopping for milkshakes after shopping, so ...

Of course, Katie wasn't dressed and was in the middle of dinner when I was ready to go, so I told her to stay with Daddy.

"But I don't love him, I love you!" she said while hugging me.

Daddy laughed. He has that luxury, because he's usually the object of her unconditional affection. Mom almost caved right there -- I never get picked, and that generally breaks my heart.

It was emotional manipulation that Katie mostly uses on her sister. When Nikki won't play what Katie wants to play, Katie often tells her, "I don't like you!"

Nikki doesn't care -- and to Katie that means, "Nikki doesn't like me!"

Katie does care, and just the thought drives her into tears.

It's a weapon, I think, that they use against each other.

My favorite are the random I love yous. Out of the blue, Nikki will come up to me, hug whatever body part is most accessible and say "I luzz yooo." Talk about heartwarming! Of course, I'm slowly learning that her affection isn't as "random" as I imagine. It generally comes on the heels of her getting away with something for which she thought she'd get in trouble.

That's still sweet. Here's what's scary: When Katie told me she loved Phoebus (from "The Hunchback of Notre Dame"), I was amused. When she told me she loved Andy (from her preschool), I got a little freaked.

"I love two boys," she said in the car shortly after she finally caught Andy for a hug. He knew she was coming, so he ran like the dickens, but he slipped on the grass and gave her the advantage.

Andy already has an aversion to girls, which is tough because I just learned that every girl in his preschool class loves him.

Yes, preschool class.

I'd be worried about children growing up too fast and all that jazz accept for my original assertion -- they're too young to truly understand the implications, nuances and differences.

It does give me some indication of what I'm in for, though, and it's not pretty.

I alternate between being freaked out that "Andy" is the only thing that gets her to school on some days and being the overachieving mom, who started glaring at and plotting against all Katie's classmates when I heard about the competition.

Lord, it's going to be a tough 20 or so years. I wonder whether Katie's going to love me through it?

Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or ccurrie@craigdailypress.com.

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