We Are America

Voices of the Nation's Future

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Photo ofAbby Antunez

I love you. These three words feel foreign in my lips. Growing up, my family hardly said “I love you” to one another. These three words were only said to each other on what seemed to be special occasions or events. I had always thought nothing of it as my family was never big on expressing or talking about our feelings. It wasn’t until I looked at other kids with their parents while at school that I had noticed how big some families were on showing affection and at the time found it weird. 

It wasn’t until talking to my friends that I realized it isn’t just my family who wasn’t affectionate so I began to see it as normal. As I got older, I noticed that my dad's side of the family wasn't affectionate either. This got me thinking as to why something so simple like giving a hug was awkward for me and my family. It was then that I realized it was just something that wasn’t done simply because it had never been done before. Although my family never verbally expressed their love for each other, they were still very close and open at the same time. This is how it was with my siblings as all of us knew we loved each other but we never said it. 

My mom's side of the family however was different. Whenever we saw each other, we were expected to greet each other with hugs, or else we were considered to be rude. I wouldn’t hear the end of it if I somehow forgot to greet someone. For that reason, when I was younger I would try to avoid going over to see them because most times I didn’t want to hug them because I found it pointless. I always figured a simple “hello” and wave were enough. The difference between my parents' families was always something I talked about because I found it so funny. How could my dad's side be so close with each other even though they never expressed how they felt? How could my mother’s side be so open yet closed off? 

Seeing these two different ways people showed love made me realize that even though I might not hear or say those three little words often, it didn’t mean that there was no love. I learned that I don’t have to say “I love you” to someone to let them know I care because I could show them in other ways. Although I would say it made me emotionally closed off, in a way, it made me be more caring when it came to others because I couldn’t really tell others how they made me feel. I made sure to show them with my actions. 

My family’s love language molded me into the person I am today.  Over time, of course, I’ve become more open with how I feel but I learned that I don’t always need to. I learned that it is true when people say actions speak louder than words and that it’s very important to not only say how you feel but act on it.

© Abby Antunez. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person's teacher.