I wanted them to feel safe and secure. I wanted them to be confident. I wanted them to know that no matter what they did, they couldn’t break our bond.
Like many things about parenting, I realized I was wrong.
Not about what I wanted for them: the safety, security, confidence, and bond.
I was wrong about what emotion I needed to project to give that to them.
It’s not that love isn’t a necessary part of that — but love is in everything we do with our children. I can look at one of my children eating a Cheerio and be almost overwhelmed to tears with how much I love them.
And that is part of the problem.
Love is a strong emotion. It’s earth-shattering. It’s overwhelming. It’s an emotion that sweeps us off our feet and turns our world upside down.
Like many of the emotions associated with parenthood, it doesn’t convey stability, safety, security, and confidence — even though we think the sheer strength of our love should do this.
So what can we give our children every day to cultivate stability, safety, security, and confidence?
It’s a bit shocking, isn’t it? It feels like the opposite of everything we should do with our kids.
But what emotions are usually associated with parenthood?
Love. Excitement. Pride. Frustration. Anger. Disappointment.
Those are all pretty heavy.
Imagine being tiny and dependent, and seeing the people you rely on go through those emotions every day, over and over and over again . . . often triggered by something you do.
How would that make you feel? Would you feel secure? Would you feel safe? Would you feel confident?
Think again about the things our children do: They take toys from other children. They pull the dog’s tail. They pee on the floor. They scream at something that’s seemingly insignificant. They bite their siblings. They want a cup of water five seconds after you sat down. They do things that drive us nuts . . . right?
And how do you react? With emotion, even love? Is it a reaction that shows how much they rock your world?
Which shows them you’re keeping them safe? Which shows them their actions aren’t making waves? Do you react with a “ho hum let’s work this out?”
Or something more?
I think boredom is by far the hardest emotion to show my children, but one of the most important. It’s not ignoring them, or dismissing them, or belittling them.
It’s saying, “This is normal. You are normal. I can handle this, and you can handle this. We’re not going to let taken toys and pulled tails and pee on the carpet and screams and bites rock our world. This is part of growing up, and I’m here for you while you go through it all.”
Love — that’s easy. Wiping a nose can make me melt with love.
It’s boredom that’s my challenge every day.
Photo credit: jessicafm on Flickr