I Don’t Know What Real Love Is

“You don’t know what real love is.”

She spouted it off like she actually knew me. All she knew about me was that I knew a mother {or a mother figure}. And that I had actually waited until Mother’s Day to pick up cards.

Just minutes before, I had coughed. That didn’t work. So, I used the most polite “Excuse me.” I could muster. But those teens making out in front of me wouldn’t budge. In the Mother’s Day card aisle of all places. It was an act of defiance and attention-seeking, and if we are all honest, possibly a cry for help.

But I couldn’t contain a chortle. That was my response. I should have been indignant. Maybe given her a speech about having self-respect. Or dumped some cold water on him. But I just laughed. It’s the same laugh I give Graham when he has a complete breakdown and threatens to build a spaceship out of K’Nex and leave me. It’s the maternal oh-honey-you-really-do-not-have-a-clue laugh. It escaped my lips before I could stop it.

I don’t know what real love is.

I think real love is…

buying a new toilet that sits up a bit higher because you vomit every 45 minutes throughout your pregnancies.

holding your hand as you hear the words hypotonia, neurosurgery, mega cisterna magna, polymicrogyria, missing brain matter, wheelchair, nonverbal. “We don’t know what your daughter will ever be able to do.”

scrubbing floors on his hands and knees because it is your least favorite chore.

postponing some of his dreams while your children need health insurance.

buying you jeans that somehow make all that extra skin from carrying three blessings a little less obvious. While he wears the same ones day after day.

married sex. Eight years of it. And it makes the R-rated movie you are about to sneak into look like a Junior High production of Romeo and Juliet. If practice makes perfect, then we are a few thousand times closer to whatever is the opposite of being pawed by a man-child in a superstore.

cooking, dishes, laundry, yardwork. Teamwork. He is never afraid to work. And the work never ends.

dropping out of school to help his mom finish college after his dad died. They say you can tell by the way he treats his mom.

going to the grocery store and buying the items you wouldn’t buy for yourself. Real maple syrup.

diapers. Washing, folding, stuffing, changing, washing, over and over again.

rubbing your back in the middle of the night while a baby goes through a growth spurt. 40 times nursing in 36 hours.

brushing their teeth and washing their hair and reading them stories and tucking them in.

knowing where every penny goes and budgeting together. No secrets.

believing you. Every word. Even things that seem to be unbelievable. Things that are unspeakable. But you can speak them to him.

saving up for months to take you on a month-long honeymoon.

hours of physical and occupational and speech therapy at home. Stolen moments and teachable lessons he passes on to your little one.

reading to you while you drive, because you get motion sickness. And using great voices. Because he is committed to the story.

holding a screaming refluxing mess while you take a shower.

sleeping on the nursery floor her first night out of your room.

coffee. Countless cups of coffee he has brewed and poured just for you.

listening and having the perfect Scripture when you feel like everything in your short life of three decades is starting to fall apart and you have no idea how God is going to hold it all together or why He is allowing it to fall in the first place.


But, you are right. I don’t know what real love is. Maybe I should trade him in for your version of real love. A teeny-bopper 50 Shades of Whatever sad type of lust.

No, I will stick with mine. Glued together and fitting perfectly.

But I have learned a lesson today. I have a lot to teach my daughters. Because they are worth more than an awkward make-out session in Aisle 3. And you, sweet girl, are worth more than you know. I pray that your mother or grandmother or aunt or neighbor can convince you of this. A God of real love created you. And loves you so very much.

love emily burgerImage Credit

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4 thoughts on “I Don’t Know What Real Love Is

  1. […] see him being able to change cloth diapers, read aloud G.K. Chesterton, or anything else on this pseudo-list I made about my amazing Dave. I am also 70% sure Channing isn’t looking for a 135 lb awkward woman who can’t dance, […]


  2. Really beautiful.


  3. […] so cliche, but I fell in love with Dave’s eyes the first moment I saw them. He walked into an ice cream shop and I turned […]


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