Taking the ‘but’ out of Love

“Birth.” A day that will change your life forever. This day looks different to everyone. For some, it’s actually days…plural. For others it may be so fast you almost didn’t make it to the hospital. For some, it may not even happen at a hospital. For others it may include the best Neonatal Doctors and Nurses there are. For some it might be a c-section. For others it might be au natural. For some it may be the day you adopted your child. For others it may be the day you became a foster parent. But whatever you call it, however you experience it…it’s amazing. As parents we have spent hours, days, months (and for some even years!) wondering what our unborn child(ren) will look like, smell like, feel like. Wondering what it will be like the first time we hold them, hear their cry, see their smiles. We wonder about the personalities they will develop, and the men and women that in a blink they will become. We spend hours praying for them, for their friends, for their teachers, for each of their spouses, for the jobs they will have, the careers they will hold. The pictures that formed in our head during those expectant months just bold outlines in a coloring book waiting to be filled in.

Of course we have many hopes and dreams for them. But please consider this…

Put your own dreams and hopes aside and allow your children to create their own. Allow them to fill in the pages of the coloring books with their own beautiful colors. Always expect their best. Not your best. They may occasionally color outside the lines…and that’s okay. This way they never never feel like they’ve failed you especially if they don’t live up to your dreams. They may choose pink instead of blue or yellow instead of gold…let them. Lead by example and chances are they will follow.

Instead, spend your time and efforts focusing on this one point.

Express to them how much you love them. Learn their love language and speak it, fluently.

All too often it’s heard “I love you, but…”   I love you but you’re driving me crazy. I love you but I don’t love these grades. I love you but if you continue to do that we’ll have to kick you out. I love you but I hate the way you’re acting. I love you but I can’t stand… (I’m guilty too)

Adding a but often negates the initial comment.

As parents, there are no buts to our love. We need to love equally and whole-heartedly and nothing should ever negate that no matter what. Love is not conditional like that. Children should not mistake this for an excuse to do whatever they want; there are always consequences for ill choices. We may not love some of the choices our children will choose to make, but their choices do not have to define who they are. Nor should they define our love for them. Ill choices aside, our children are our children.

Vow to always separate out your love for your child and your dislike for their ill choices. Love them for who they are. And never let that change.

So, instead of a but, think of it as “I love you and…” I love you and I always will. I love you and I hope that through the harshness of this world you can also find glimmers of beauty. I love you and I love you so much that I will establish boundaries and consequences. I love you and one day, when you’re ready to launch I will release you, trusting that we’ve helped raise you in a way to know that you’re leaving with your very best wings in which to soar. I love you and there is nothing you can do that will make me love you any less. Nothing. I love you and even after you launch I will still be loving you the same as I did the day you were born, the same as I did the first time you said Mama, the same as I did the day you took your first steps, the same as I did on your first day of school, the same as I will on the first day you…no, I take that back…I will love you even more because every day that goes by, my love grows exponentially.

Love your kids. Yesterday, today, tomorrow and forever…unconditionally. No buts.

 

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