When I was younger, I was sure that my mom loved me. If not, why would she be the first person running to help me after I fell off of the swing? Why would she be the first one with a barf bag after I threw up from eating too many cherries if she didn’t actually love me? But, as I grew older, I began making friends who I saw at birthday parties or getting dropped off at school, and I heard something consistent from their parents each time — a simple 3 word, 8 letter phrase that my mom never said to me. I began to step back and grow distant from her, wondering if there was something wrong with me. Was I not loveable enough? Did my mom feel some sort of obligation to take care of me because she was the one who birthed me?
This continued plaguing my thoughts until I began preparing for the ISEE, an exam that each Bostonian sixth and eighth-grade student takes to determine if they meet the requirements to attend one of three prestigious schools in the Boston Public School district: the John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science, Boston Latin Academy, or Boston Latin School. The summer before I took the exam, I spent grueling hours studying and was too busy to care about whether or not I was loved. Even when I went on vacation with my family to New York, my backpack held only math textbooks and stacks upon stacks of vocab cards. I practically ingrained the “lo-fi hip hop radio” girl animation that studied alongside me the whole season into my mind. Of course, I took plenty of breaks, which were supposed to be 5 or 10 minutes long, but somehow turned into an hour of YouTube.
I received my results for the exam later than everybody else in my school. All of my friends had reassured me that this meant that I must’ve gotten into Boston Latin School.
I was supposed to have nothing to worry about: I was consistently at the top of my grade and I spent all (well, some) of the summer studying. My class had a field trip to the Museum of Science on the day that everybody got their results, and I spent the whole time biting my nails and ignoring the museum guide.
“You should’ve spent that excessive study break studying instead of wasting your time watching cute videos of puppies! Or, you should have taken that chance to attend the 4-hour math class Mom was talking about because if you did, you wouldn’t be in this situation,” I thought.
On the bus ride back, while my friends gushed over the cute stuffed turtle from the gift shop and shouted over the creepy spider exhibit, I was silent.
“Wow, your sister goes to Boston Latin School? That’s so awesome! You must go there too then, right?” I thought to myself.
When I got home, I dove right into my bed. The weather matched my mood perfectly, too: rain pouring with no intention of stopping, and thunder and lightning raging like a furious sea storm. For the first time, I didn’t even care about what my teachers might say about me not doing my homework. My grades no longer mattered to me — since I didn’t get in, my dreams were already floating away from me and down the drain.
I was busy wallowing in my own misery until my mom woke me up with glassy eyes and shaking hands and told me, “You got into BLS! All of your hard work paid off! I’m so, so proud of you.”
In that split second, I knew that my mom loved me, and expresses it through her unwavering support and ways that aren’t words. We cried a lot that day, but for different reasons. Sure, I was ecstatic that I had gotten into such a difficult and highly-renowned school, but I was even more excited about the fact that I knew with utmost certainty that I was loved. Even if I hadn’t gotten in, I know that my mom wouldn’t have loved me any less. But, without this experience, I would have always thought that I wasn’t worthy of love.
Now, I’m closer with my mom than ever! I still express my love verbally, and she still doesn’t, but I know that I can always depend on her to bring me a plate of meticulously cut mangoes or carefully peeled tangerines while I’m cramming last-minute for a finals exam, or a hug after an especially long day of Zoom classes.
In a lot of households, nobody says, “I love you,” out loud, and a lot of people aren’t close with their parents, so it’s easy to feel unloved. Especially with covid, many families are around each other more or are entirely separated. No matter how many fights you may have with your loved ones, or how many days you’ve gone without seeing them, they still love you and show it in ways that aren’t always with words. Everybody has their love languages, and you might need to push a little bit to find them.