You know I love you, right? I tell you that all the time. I tell you in words, and I tell you with my hugs, with bedtime snuggles, with my kisses on your scraped knees, and my holding your hand when we cross a street.
You may not recognise it, but I also tell you how much I love you when I nag you about eating your carrots, or make you take a bath. I tell you every time I force you to get in your bed when you'd rather be playing, or encourage you to clean up after yourself, or make you think about why what you've done has made your sister cry and whether you should apologise.
It may seem to you, at times, like I don't think you're good enough; like I'm always trying to "fix" you. I want you to know that I love you just the way you are.
I love your stubborn little pout, and the way you can be fiercely loyal to a pair of socks. I love that you express yourself through cartoons. I love the perseverance that makes you smuggle books into the bathroom after lights out to get in a few more minutes reading (even though I really wish you wouldn't, because you need your sleep). I love the way you cover me with Blankie when you know I'm not feeling well. I even love the way you throw your whole being into an argument when you think you're right (although I hope you will eventually learn to save your energy for the things that are actually important to you, instead of digging your heels in just for the sake of it).
When I am asking you to eat vegetables, have a bath, or go to bed, it's because I hope you will grow up strong and healthy. When I ask you to clean up after yourself, it's because I know how much smoother things will go when you don't have to spend half your time looking for things. When I ask you to consider your actions and your treatment of other people, it's because I want you to realise that you have an impact, and that all of these small choices you make determine what that impact is.
You may not know this, but there are days when I cry after putting you to bed. On bad days, when we've fought over every little thing, from pants to homework, or not leaving your backpack on the stairs, I feel like a failure. When our nighttime routine deteriorates into you yelling that you need your bed *this* way before you can possibly get in it, and me yelling at you to just get in your damn bed already, I'm not really angry at you, I'm angry at me. (Okay, I'm a little angry at you.)
I can only hope that you know so deep down how much I love you, that things like me yelling or not snuggling you after you've screamed in my face don't make you feel that I don't.
Let me assure you, while neither of us is angry and no one is upset, that I love you no matter what. It doesn't matter what path you end up taking, or where your life lands; I will always, always love you. Even when I'm mad.