The Thing about Love: THAT IS IMPORTANT TO KNOW

Photo by Amy Shamblen on Unsplash

I may know this thing that I am about to tell you about and at some time I forgot this thing.

I remember now; this lesson. I think this lesson is important. I want to remind you so that you don’t make mistakes with an excellent person whom you love.

I’ve always been *like my mother* who had so many children she lived in overwhelm. Her love for you was more like a benign awareness. She always responded to help you, but she was never first to communicate. I felt her in my background: a trusty tree that I could always navigate home to. I was lucky, I always felt loved.

Recently *as my husband shows me* I realize that the benign love is not enough. When I look back at the times I was lonely; I would have done anything for an expression of love. I know that during my loneliest times, I would save every expression of love so that I could go over it again and again. You could find dozens of Hallmark cards stuffed into notebooks and boxes. I also kept all of my pictures, all of the time.

I am a middle child. I am capable of contentment, all by myself, without assistance or company from anyone else. This doesn’t equate with having no need for love. I need love and its expression as much as anyone else needs love. The key is that I need the expression of love, as much as I need love. Being like my mother, leaves my children and my husband without the benefit of my expression of love towards them.

This is key because much of what love can do for you is through the expression of that love. Without the expression of love, love can be unknowable.

If you want people that you love to know they are loved, you must let them know. And no, birthdays and Christmas acknowledgments are not enough. Those contacts can be singularly obligatory. And yes, they can look that way too.

Without expressions of love your loved ones won’t feel it. They won’t know of your love, nor how much you love. As much as you love, they won’t know that you love them.

And Do you Love Them?

Regret is often a product of unexpressed love. Why don’t we communicate the richness of our love? Why can’t we do these difficult things like telling each other how important we are to each other? Why can’t we say how happy we are to be together? Why can’t we say what matter is love?

Why can’t we do these things for each other? The answer is that we can.

Let each other know beyond a shadow of a doubt, how important we are to each other, with our children, our spouse, our siblings, our parents and our friends.

O’ Beautiful, Child of Mine

I come here to these pages to work through my relationship with my daughter. There are not too many guidebooks on parenting adults. The guidebooks are always about raising young ‘uns. For me, for many years now, it’s been all about adults.

This child of mine. The daughter, the wispy hair, the beautiful face, the strong and stubborn stance. She has fought, she has won, she is strong. Too strong, she does not need me, she doesn’t need her family anymore.

The last time we were together, we argued. I am hurt, she doesn’t realize how much pain I endure because of her life choices. She tells me that I am selfish, and it is not about me.

Of course, I know that.

My darling daughter, aren’t you at least interested? Don’t you want to know how I hurt because you choose a life that is 800 miles away from me? You choose a life that I cannot participate in. You have pushed me out of your life by circumstance.

If I refuse, if I am stubborn as she is, it costs me dearly. Plane tickets, lost work, lost time, missing my home. And still she says, “you’re selfish mother”.

She wants to compare my yesterday to her tomorrow. She would never treat her children the way that I treated mine. Her childhood wasn’t good, it was lonely and filled with deprivation. I told her, “you have no way of knowing how you will treat your children when they are older”. But she is not listening. She tells me over and over “I would never…”.

I am not sure how she sees herself, or her life. I do not know enough about it. I know that I have been angry too. And she throws her history at me as if it is broken glass. “Here” she says, “pick up the pieces.” My response has not always been patient.

I sent her * her childhood in pictures; she got every photo that I ever printed of her. The box was so heavy that it cost three times what I normally pay to mail to Virginia. I was hoping she could see some goodness in that childhood. I was hoping she would see some redemption in her adolescence. I have always been smitten with her, hence the thousands of pictures. But she did not, at least not in a way that she could redeem me, her mother.

This time, I am patient. I commit to myself that I will listen. I really want to know why she is so angry.

The other agenda, my agenda, is that I don’t want to be battered with my child’s childhood. I have been blamed for everything, from being not enough of a mother to being too much of a mother.

I know that I DIDN’T ALWAYS GET IT RIGHT.

I have to recommit to listening and being there for her. I must recommit because I become weary. Do I have to listen to everything over and over again?

Yes, yes, I do.

To me, she is beyond beautiful. I see her vulnerability. I see her wishes for her future. I hear her pain. She is so emotionally intelligent, and her intuition is striking. She genuinely wants to know; she truly wants information that will help her understand.

When I watch her with her sons, I see something incredibly special. Hopefully, she will be a much better mother than me. I think that all parents want that. We all want to look ahead to a future that is better and brighter.

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Who can know what the love for a child will do to you? How do I describe the compelling feeling of loving someone as intensely and wholly as I do my child? How do I tell you that if you choose to have children, you will not ever “get over it”? Your children stay with you for your entire life. They may not be physically near, but they are always psychically near. You will always want happiness and love for them, always.

Love is Not Enough

All through this week, I’ve been getting the signal that loving people is not enough to make my relationships what I want them to be. My daughter left our home at Christmas this year, angry and fed up with me and her sister. I let her be angry. I didn’t try to talk with her, nor influence what she was thinking or any of that. I just let her be. She lives 800 miles away and my time with her is very limited.

It’s frustrating because I m.i.s.s. her and my grandsons e.v.e.r.y. s.i.n.g.l.e. d.a.y.

So I let her be, but she was angry. She tells me “why should I be angry when I can just move on?” And what she means is, move on without me. That’s what she means. Yep, she is kinda mean.

I cannot live without her. I need to see my daughter, I need to touch my daughter. I need to know that my daughter is okay. That is my need – not hers. BTW, she is 37 years old.

I am in so much more need than my daughter is. She is busy, a single mother of two boys. I am disabled and live my days at home alone. It is I who want to spend time with her. It is I who has a need for contact. I want to see my daughter and touch her.

I kept texting her and she never responded. Of course, my need to see her grew. Her sons talked to me and I cherished their words. The thing is she has no way of knowing anything about me. I have to attend to her to get her to see how I feel. She will never know unless I attend to her. I can’t just love her from afar. It won’t work, not if I want a loving relationship with my daughter.

Yesterday, I was talking with my son. He was on the edge a meltdown and we were talking about all the parenting stuff. I told him that my confidence came from being loved by my parents. But it wasn’t just being loved, it was feeling loved. That came from being attended to. When my parents paid attention to me, when they provided for me, when I got the dress I wanted for school when I was 11, I was feeling loved. They were attending to me. Reaching out to be concerned about the kids’ lives, talking to them, being there in times of crisis, that’s part of the love package.

I want my daughter to feel loved. I want my daughter to feel that love is flexible; if her beliefs and actions change, my love will not change. I will follow her wherever she goes, and I will take action to show her that I love her.

Being Ignored

If you are ignored by a group of people; they just don’t acknowledge you. How do you feel?

It is a very strange experience and the resulting emotions are damning. Who would not be diminished by someone who does not acknowledge their existence?

No ask for shared activity.

No discussion over shared food.

No acknowledgment of the work, the effort, the energy taken by them. The them that does the ignoring.

It’s wild. Wildly inappropriate.

Please wait while my diminished self recovers.

Parenting for Covid-19

We act like we can’t stand our own children

What the hay? Everyone keeps meme-ing about giving teachers a jillion dollars and how hard it is to spend the day with their kids. What the, what?

One little afternoon with two kids is overwhelming that is because the kids spend so MUCH time everywhere else.

We take them to pre-K, then summer camp and then after school care and then, over and over, we take them somewhere else – not home.

Parenting has fundamentally changed in the last forty years and in some ways for the better. For purposes of this essay, we talk about how parenting has changed for the worse.

For the sanity of parents everywhere, some things should be decided on with caution. This new generation of parents seems determined to entertain their kids non-stop. This is a parenting mistake, a decision that is destined to make a failure.

There is well-documented value in boredom. Boredom is a basis for creativity and imagination.

What I really want to talk about is a philosophical difference in parenting. Forty years ago, when I brought my daughter home from the hospital, she was coming to a very busy house. She has two older brothers, a stepsister, dogs, and parents who were renovating and moving. We incorporated her right into the crowd. As a family, we want her well fed, happy and invested in our family routine. At three months old, she is going to lay around with us on the couch, listen to our discussions and otherwise be a part of an already active environment.

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That is NOT the way that parents act today. Perhaps, out of their own feelings of neglect or because of the age-old promise to outdo our own parents; new parents today are acting quite differently.

First, before pregnancy, all must be perfect. Once all is perfect and the baby is born, the world begins rotating around the child. Everything hinges on whether the child is comfortable, feeling well, entertained (in a healthy way) and on and on and on. The parents continue to behave this way even with a second or third child. The world revolves around the child instead of the child becoming part of the world.

What just happened.

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According to teachers I know today, every child has an allergy. Parents communicate this fact loudly and redundantly. There are no careless cookies and cupcakes at any grade school functions – oh no – that won’t happen without a lawsuit.

When my kids were in school, we all agreed with each other, that our own child was the best, the brightest and the most special. That doesn’t happen anymore. Now there is competition and it’s brutal. Parents set out to prove the specialness of their own child and it must be more special than your child. There is no universal agreement anymore, instead it’s “My child is better than yours.”

Because we (the 80s parent) were up close and personal in our child’s business, we could see their bad behavior for what it was: bad behavior. Today, people have a hard time seeing their own child’s bad behavior. Instead, they give reasons and righteousness for otherwise minor behavior problems. Of course this encourages more and bigger behavior problems. Again, you will see that the parent wishes to explain it all away, rather than “manning up” and taking the medicine that goes with the crime. Parents not only allow the bad behavior; they encourage it by trying to explain it away with reasons. “He doesn’t feel well and that girl made him mad.”

The 80s parent did not send children away in order to ensure constant entertainment. Kids had bicycles and found their own entertainment, usually with another pack of kids doing the same thing. While the boundaries seemed loose, the monitoring was not, parents spent the time getting to know all of what the kids were into.

Photo by Donald Giannatti on Unsplash

The 80s parents made mistakes. It was a time when we still believed authority (think Catholic priests) and we were betrayed by that authority. Perhaps that is why todays parents are hyper-vigilant, they want to make sure that these kinds of mistakes are not made again. For this I don’t blame them.

I don’t think we need to worry about entertaining kids 24/7. I think it’s ok for kids to be bored. The most important skill we need to develop with our kids is trusting communication. That is a skill that is timeless, and it is a relationship that won’t encourage selfishness and excuses in children. When kids behave badly, they need punishment (gasp). I’ve heard some parents say that nothing in the punishment realm seems to work to encourage discipline. If that is true, then keep pursuing resolution until you find it. If kids and parents need counseling and education so be it. It doesn’t mean that you have failed as a parent. “Man up” and figure it out. The best thing you can ever do is help your child understand consequences.

Self and other honesty encourages health and well-being in every relationship. That’s a sentence that all parents can buy into.

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