I’m starting a series of blogs on parenting. It happens that lately I’ve been asked questions and made observations that are begging inside to be shared about parental love and effectiveness. Please note that this is not shared in judgment. I’ve made huge mistakes myself.
I now have had the advantage of corrective education. But more importantly I’ve had time–being able to go to my adult daughter (a full-time mom of five) and ask what it was like for her–which I recently had opportunity to do. Difficult to hear. But it is my hope that this will help you in raising children, or you can share it with your children, friends and relatives who are struggling with children. They may not even realize they are struggling!
I’ve decided to title this “Is Love Enough?” but considered calling it Love 101, if that weren’t so trite. It has become my conviction that we do not understand love. We feel it for our children, but most of us have a deficit ourselves that we are trying to parent from. We are doing the best we can, but we can get very tired and angry and confused when our children don’t respond the way we want them to and think they should. And believe it or not, our love can become toxic for our children!
So I am going to take apart the concept of love bit by bit, and hopefully illustrate it well enough to bring understanding. Please feel free to respond either publicly, to benefit everyone reading, or privately. I will answer all questions or clarify my presentation if it wasn’t clear.
I’m excited about this because I feel it is SO important, and I have learned so much just from writing the Bible–go figure. It makes sense, and I am sure I will learn much more. I’m excited about that too–it’s had a profound effect on me and my security. I grew up extremely insecure. And we all want to raise secure, well-loved, well-adjusted children.
So let me begin with one of my biggest mistakes. (I do have my daughter’s permission to share this.) Can we love too much? With our understanding of love, and our brokenness, YES!
When my biological daughter was six months old, I discovered her father was having an affair. My heart was broken, my world turned upside down–not a good state for a baby to be developing in. (Although better then than during pregnancy.) But even though I was totally in love with her, I’m sure I felt very preoccupied. Perhaps, it is why she was such an easy baby. She didn’t seem at all repressed though, she was very alert and ahead developmentally. I wasn’t one to give into depression. I’ve always been a fighter.
She was born in Minnesota, and on her second birthday, she and I flew to California. I had to get away, but knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t have done that. At that time it seemed like salvation that some friends paid for my ticket. But she still remembers the feelings she had that day of leaving daddy.
Long story short, he followed us to California, and we tried several times to start over, but he finally left the last time when she was four. So the most important years of her life for personality and character development were unstable at best. But I am grateful he was in her life that long. Divorce or trauma before four is extremely hard on children (personality-disorder hard).
Once he was gone, she was my focus. I didn’t know it then, but that is a terrible thing to do to a child. They absorb your anxiety.
I felt so guilty that she didn’t have her beloved daddy, so horrible that I had done this to the most important person in my life, that I became indulgent. Thank God we didn’t have any money so I couldn’t indulge her that way. And thank God I was into health already, so I didn’t ask her what she wanted to eat–we were fortunate to have food, and I had to choose it very carefully. But for everything else, it was “What do you want?”
That is way too much responsibility for a child who, ideally, should live care-free. That is why we have parents–someones to make good choices for us so we don’t have to. We can relax, secure that we are taken care of by someone who loves us and has learned a thing or two about life–hopefully has wisdom. We don’t have the ability to respond appropriately yet.
Children haven’t had enough experience or the chance to learn. These poor little ones only know what feels good, what tastes good; and in a broken world, that is not a safe method to choose what is good. They would live on candy and ice cream and doughnuts and never go to bed. They would be hyperactive, adrenaline junkies, with gray skin and dark circles around their eyes, who terrorize others with the burden of their power, and end up with diabetes before they reach puberty. I know you have seen it, just as I have.
I want to keep these under a thousand words, so I will finish the story of my mistakes next time. Fortunately, I had a friend who was gritty and bold and not afraid to speak truth to his friend. That is what I want to be for you: the friend who is bold enough to be the wall that everything that isn’t really you runs into and shatters or bounces off of.
Till next time…