Dear Mom, I love you a tiny bit less.

It was as much a part of my childhood as The Brady Bunch, the daily tornado of Aquanet that I would douse on my hair, making mix tapes, the girl drama, the boy drama and even more ingrained into my memory than our nightly family dinners. It had nothing to do with The Love Boat, the Sweet Valley High series or the overwhelming excitement when call waiting was invented.

It was the simple words, stated with unshakable confidence, that I heard every single day from my mom, “I love you more.

I took it as a game. I would say it back, “No, I love YOU more.” And she wouldn’t laugh in response like she usually did when we were joking around. She didn’t negotiate or leave it open to discussion, like most topics in our home. She would calmly repeat, “No, I love you more. That’s it.” I didn’t accept it, as I loved my mom as much as any daughter has ever loved any mother, and I was always so incredibly proud that she was mine. So, no, I didn’t just stop no matter how annoyed it made her. I kept on playing the game of “I love YOU more” to my mom’s dismay. I even tried to end it in a tie, “Okay, I love you the same.” But, she wouldn’t have it. We were in a standoff. A stand still. She wouldn’t budge and nor would I because in my mind, it was impossible for her to love me more than I loved her.

Now I’m a mom who loves my kids more than they could ever possibly love me. There’s absolutely no way they could love me more, or even the same amount, as I love them. There’s no chance of a win, there’s no opportunity for a tie — this is my game to win over and over again. I know my boys love me as much as they possibly can, and I understand that the feeling is so big it’s hard for them to even comprehend, but it just can’t compare to the fierce and all-consuming love a mom has for her child. No dice.

One of the best, most satisfying moments of my adult life happened when I was just finishing tucking in my 6-year-old son. I was leaving his room (after about 10 extra questions while standing at the door) and said my routine, “Goodnight, Miles. I love you more.” And I hear his sweet little voice say, “I love you a tiny bit less.” I stood there for a moment with a tear in my eye and a huge smile across my face as I realized I owe it to my mom to give her that same gift.

So, Awesome Mom, I want to tell you that I finally get it and I will let you win. I love you as much as I possibly can, and more than I can ever put into words. And, I love you a tiny bit less.

Happy Mother’s Day.