One mom's heart-bursting letter to her sons about what saying 'I love you' really means.

As a child, I remember all the times my mother said “I love you” to me. She’d say it before she hung up the phone, every single time. She’d say it as I was walking out the door to head to school. She said it every time she dropped me off at a friend’s house, right before I stepped out of her car.

I used to feel embarrassed and a little annoyed because I didn’t understand what she was really saying. But now that I have children of my own, I know that she wasn’t just saying those three words over and over.


Me with my sons in 1999. Photo used with permission of the author.

When a mother says “I love you,” it means so many different things. So this is a letter to my sons about the many true meanings of my “I love you.”

Dear son: I need to tell you that I love you.

And I want you to know how complex and intricate and meaningful those three words are when they come from me. I have been saying them to you throughout your entire life, but I often wonder if you know exactly what I mean when I say them.

You, my child, are supposed to take my love for granted. You should know that I love you just as well as you know your own name. My love was your very first love, and it will last last your entire lifetime, even long after I’m gone. But in case you ever wonder, I want to tell you exactly what “I love you” means to me.

When I say I love you, it’s more than a natural feeling a mother has for her child.

It means I think of you all the time. All throughout my day, my thoughts of you are too many to count. When I think about you, it can be a simple hope that you are making the best of this current moment. If you’re at school, I often hope that you’re content, that you’re patient, that you’re learning or challenged or enjoying yourself.

When you’re home, I hope that home is serene, peaceful, and comfortable. If you’re out with friends, I hope that you’re fulfilled and happy. My love is much more than admiration. My love is more than pride for who you are and what you’ll become. My love is steadfast hope that never fades.

I love you also means you are the person for whom I would stop everything.

If you ever need me, even if I can’t (physically) be there for you instantly, in my heart, I’m by your side. I’m holding your hand. I’m holding you up. I’m holding you close. I’m guiding you forward. I am there for whatever you need. No matter where you are, I am with you. No matter what, you can always call on me. So when you run out the door and you hear me say, “goodbye, I love you!” remember, this is what it means.

Because I am your mother, my love is part of your foundation.

It helped you grow into who you are today. But I know it’s not enough. I hope you know your priceless worth, yet you are humble and graceful. I hope my love has helped your heart become strong, yet vulnerable and open. I hope all your efforts are brave, but careful. I hope your heart is generous, but discerning. You must believe that you are enough to make this world a little bit better. When I tell you I love you, I’m also reminding you to believe in yourself and to love who you are.

When I do special things for you, it’s not to hear you say “thanks” or to watch for your appreciation. It’s another way to say I love you.

When I prepare your breakfast before you wake up, it’s because I want your morning to be a little easier. Your carefully crafted birthday cakes are a way for me to say, “I love you so much that my time, energy and creativity are for no one else but you today.”

Every stitch of every Halloween costume was from my heart to yours so you could be whatever your imagination desired. When you wonder why I ironed your shirt when you didn’t ask me to or why I made your favorite meal two nights in a row or why I made sure you could find your gloves and hat on a cold winter day, it’s only because I want to give you little bits of comfort and joy, even if you barely notice them.

My love for you won’t erase your mistakes.

It won’t always catch you when you fall. It won’t spare you from heartbreak or failure.

But my love for you is why I always want what’s best for you. And while what’s best might not always be what’s easiest, you can be sure that I will always have space to encourage, champion, or comfort you.

It doesn’t matter how far away you are or how old we both become. It doesn’t matter how many years go by or how many children of your own you have someday. You will always be the fire in my heart, the greatest joy in my memories, and the reason I sometimes stay awake and worry. I will love you on your happiest days, I will love you through your lowest points, I will love you when you break my heart. This love of mine will take on a thousand different forms, yet it will never change.

As you grow older, you might forget some of the little things I used to do. But I hope you’ll always know how much it means when I say I love you.

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

Image is a representation of the grandfather, not the anonymous subject of the story.

Eight years a go, a grandfather in Michigan wrote a powerful letter to his daughter after she kicked out her son out of the house for being gay. It's so perfectly written that it crops up on social media every so often.

The letter is beautiful because it's written by a man who may not be with the times, but his heart is in the right place.

It first appeared on the Facebook page FCKH8 and a representative told Gawker that the letter was given to them by Chad, the 16-year-old boy referenced in the letter.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."