What if they don't feel your love?
Just because our heart is bursting with love for someone doesn’t mean that person necessarily feels that love. Where I worry I’m blowing it is in my parenting. Children everywhere, both young and grown, struggle with feeling unloved and sometimes it is because parents aren’t able to show them that outward expression of love.
Loving someone and showing it are two very different things. We can love someone unconditionally in our heart. We might know beyond a shadow of a doubt there is nothing they could do or that could happen that would make us stop loving them. Then, there is the expression of that love. It’s this second one that ends up being conditional. And unfortunately, the second one is what the other person experiences.
When you are a parent, you love your child so unbelievably much that all you want for them is to have a happy life. But there lies the problem.
Truly unconditional love requires mindfulness.
First, there is the matter of what we think a happy life is. That notion contains within it all of our own fears and what to avoid because we’ve learned that some experiences are painful. It also includes of all our successes and what has brought us happiness, along with the assumption that those are the same things that will bring our kids happiness.
Second, it places us in a state of judgment about the person we love and the choices they make. If what they do aligns with our beliefs, goals, and values, then we decide that is great and we might outwardly express our approval (child reads this as love). In the opposite case, however, when we see what they are doing as wrong or not good, we might outwardly express our lack of approval (child reads that as love withholding). Our concern for our children might come out as disappointment, frustration, anger, or silence.
This is dangerous territory for a parent. This is where our love gets lost in translation. We can love unconditionally all we want deep within our hearts, but it doesn’t create a loving connection unless the child feels it. They need the outward expression. They need the loving words, the loving touch, the loving acceptance of what they do and who they are. I’ll repeat that last part… the loving acceptance of what they do and who they are.
And I don’t mean acceptance of the things we don’t really care about. For example, I don’t care if one of my sons grow his hair out or loves a boy instead of a girl. Those things don’t disrupt my values. But bring home a “C” or lose another jacket, and I might want to call that “unacceptable” because I’m judging it as bad according to my own beliefs about what leads to a happy life. Acceptance is so much easier when our children are playing by the rules.
And when we are accepting, unconditional love is easier to express. But, it is not their job to do the “right” actions in order to get the love. It is my job to focus on what prevents me from accepting and thus, outwardly expressing love.
Stop the spin cycle.
There’s a line from a Pink Floyd song that goes, “Mama’s gonna put all of her fears into you.” I think about that line when I know I’m not expressing my love. Because that is how it happens, right? I have my own belief about what my child is supposed to be doing. He’s not doing it. Therefore, I express disappointment or frustration. He feels that as lack of acceptance and love. So he learns what to fear, because he doesn’t want to feel unloved. It can be a terrible cycle, and I’m the only one who can stop it.
The place to stop it is my own fear-based core beliefs and my judgments. When we have love-based beliefs and are able to accept others (and ourselves), outward expressions of our unconditional love flow with ease.
When I think about my sons and how much I love them, it inspires me to do anything I can to make them really feel that love. I want them to know how unconditionally I love them. I want to be able to express it generously and emphatically, so they know it without a doubt. But I know that work is mine.