“You’re Batgirl, ‘kay Mommy?” he asked me as he lays his head on my shoulder. It was past his bedtime — almost past mine too — but secretly I was enjoying the one-on-one conversation with my 3-year-old.

“I’m Batman and you’re Batgirl,” my son said. It’s an honor to be Batgirl, especially to this particular Batman.

He has dedicated himself to all things Batman since last November. He usually dresses the part, too, rotating between a Halloween costume, Batman pajamas and a homemade cape. This particular night he was wearing his Batman pajamas.

batman selfie

We continued our conversation about super heroes, super powers and other things that flash through his mind. Right before he finally drifted off to sleep he told me, “I like you Mommy.”

I carried sleeping Batman to his bed and tucked him under his Batman sheets. I leaned in to kiss him goodnight and realized the significance of his latest compliment — “I like you.”

I like you

In his world, “love” is expected and “like” is earned.

He is told to love his siblings and grandparents. When he protests dinner, I remind him how much he loved sloppy joe’s last time I made them. We tell each other “goodbye” and “I love you” each time we leave the house. Love has become his state of normal.

I believe this to be a good thing. Dr. Joyce Brothers, psychologist and Good Housekeeping columnist who passed away last year, once noted “the best proof of love is trust.”

Thankfully, there is trust in our home.

Many other languages use multiple words to express some of the different concepts of “love.” Ancient Greeks identified four forms of love: kinship or familiarity, friendship, romantic and divine love.

In my son’s 3-year-old world, his highest form of love is actually “like.” He is quick to tell you how much he likes Batman, the color red, cereal and his twin brother. And now I make the list. Phew.

I’ve decided there is something special about my son’s “like list.” Here are three tips I learned from my little Batman to deepen your love — or like — for life.

  • Be intentional: My son is very deliberate about his favorite things. He’s willing to fight for them (quite literally). As adults, it seems so much of the love we feel, or should feel, is habitual. Our love can turn into just a series of actions: a kiss goodbye, a text when we are running late, or saving the last brownie bite. Could these actions be more significant if we were more methodical about them? Have we gotten into a rut with the people we love most?
  • Have passion: Oprah Winfrey describes passion as energy. “Passion is energy,” she said. “Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.” Increased energy toward the people in our lives will boost your love for them.We can also find greater fulfillment and love for life when we are passionate about a hobby or good cause. Let your passions move you.
  • Embrace identity: Several of the things my son likes are the things that set him apart as an individual, especially since he happens to be an identical twin. Connecting with the things that form our identity can increase our zest for life. What sets you apart?Loving others from a place of strong identity is powerful, too. When we know who we are and have high self-worth, we experience healthier relationships. We love because we want to love, not because we seek love to fill an emotional void.

If we can love a little more with these traits, life is sure worth liking. Trust me, I know. I’m Batgirl

Column originally published on KSL.com