Z is now getting into the habit of saying "I love you" at spontaneous moments. I thoroughly encourage this. When she gets to be of a certain age, the ability to say "I love you" without reservation to the love[s] of her life will be crucial.
I didn't grow up in an emotionally open household; to this day I repress a lot of things that I shouldn't. It's plain unhealthy. This is one thing that I don't want to bequeath to my children. The repression, I think, keeps me from being completely emotionally involved in relationships. True intimacy is very scary. When I've tried to be more open with my feelings, I've been shot down, ridiculed, dismissed. And that makes me even more angry and withdrawn and disinclined to be deeply and truly involved.
But what I can do is not let this manifest in my kids. I've horrified myself by hearing the words "That's not a big deal, stop crying" come out of my mouth. Why not just say, "Whatever you're feeling is unimportant"? Same effect, no? I freely admit it's an ass pain to be endlessly patient, infinitely understanding, but I see in Z now that approaching problems with logic and compassion goes much further than saying "Because I said so." She's a fabulous little girl and goddamnit, I'm not going to hinder her emotional development in any way.
I don't let a day go by without saying "I love you" to each of them. Maybe I overcompensate by kissing and hugging them all too much. But I've never know a kid their ages to turn down a kiss and a hug. Somehow, I'm doing something right.