I have uttered those words probably even more than the words, "I love you". From the time my daughters were born, it became almost a mantra. When my oldest was walking (at 8 months old), I would yell, "Be careful" as she climbed up on tables, chairs, shelves, trees...you name it. I'm not sure if she actually heeded those words or even understood them.
When my youngest, Single Boo was born, there were a few medical issues that caused me to use those words frequently. We had to "be careful" when feeding her because certain foods just didn't quite digest right. We had to "be careful" when her tiny leg was put in a cast from a curvature in her leg. Even when the cast came off and she would walk or run, I'd yell, "Be careful" because she easily tripped over air or her own two feet. Wouldn't you know it, Single Boo became a gymnast - a really good one at that. One that had skills like somersalting on a 4 inch 4 foot high balance beam, backwards. "Be careful!" I would tell her before she walked into the gym. And I meant every word.
As a mom, I knew the dangers that could happen if Girl Boos weren't careful.
As they grew older and started making friends and eventually, dating, once more, I reminded them to "be careful". I didn't want them to date guys that would take advantage of their sweetness, their zest for life and their innocence. When they got their driver's licenses, before they walked out the door each day, I yelled, "be careful". And once again, I meant it.
What I realized after the billionth time of reminding them to "be careful" was that I wasn't telling them "don't do". I wanted them to experience the joys of trying new things as long as they knew that there could be risks involved. By reminding them to "be careful" I was actually telling them to SOAR, DANCE, LAUGH, ENTERTAIN, ENJOY, LOVE with pure delight but always know that in life, there can be bumps and bruises along the way - brace for them but never stop for fear of trying.
After I hung up from talking to my dad on the phone in North Carolina last night, I realized something. Every time we talk, he ends the call with, "Be careful." I now know that "Be Careful" also means, "I love you."