Many years ago my son and his father got involved in an epic yelling match. No one can remember what it was about. But it ended with my son storming out the back door. We realized a few minutes later… that he wasn’t in the backyard, but instead had left. After a little while we got nervous and my husband took off after him doing the slow drive through the neighborhood. I stayed at home in case he came back.
And he did.
He came back, through that same back door and walked right into my arms. He said that he was really mad. Very very angry. He wanted to run away. But he knew that if he did that – I would never recover from it. That it would crush me forever.
He knew that I would never stop loving him.
When the kids were little, I used to snuggle with them on the couch, that was one of the messages I communicated again and again.
“I love you. Nothing you do can earn or take away my love. I will never stop loving you because God gave YOU to ME to love. That is my job. Simply to love you”.
We would play this little game. Maybe not a game but everything is a game to preschoolers so I am not sure what else to call it. I would ask them at random times.
“Do I love you bc you are beautiful? But you are so beautiful!”
“Noooo”. They would respond with a smile
“Do I love you because you are smart? You are so smart!’
“Do I love you because you are so sweet and kind? You really are so sweet”
And so on. Sometimes it would get silly. “Do I love you because you have stinky feet, or a red shirt, or play soccer well…”
Finally, I would ask them – “Well why do I love you?”
“Because that’s your job! “
“That’s right. God created you and gave you to Me- and my job is just to love you! So nothing you can do will make me love you MORE or LESS! I just get to love you”.
I must have done this at least a half dozen times with each of the kids and they don’t remember it. But when we were talking this week they said they remember me constantly telling them that I would always love them. And nothing they did could ever change that.
Our conversations in the good times when they are little set a foundation of unconditional love. It may not be foolproof- but so far it has been. It has gotten us through some pretty major disappointments that easily could have turned into family disasters.
Without our love and their trust in that love, our kids are alone in their struggle to grow through their imperfections.
We will have shouting matches and slammed doors, and shock at poor decision-making that sometimes comes in floods as one bad choice replaces another bad choice. But in the end, love is what matters. The love that we show them as little ones is the bond that keeps them anchored to us as they grow through the struggles that life will throw at them. Out of respect to our children writers with older kids don’t share the struggle, because it is not our struggle to share.
But we all struggle.
So tell your kids you love them. Not because of what they do or do not do. But because you are their mom or dad. And that you chose to love them forever. Find your own way to communicate, or co-op mine, but find a way to share it with your children today.
You are loved, independently from anything you do. You are loved because God gave you to me to love! And I will love you even if you aren’t smart, or pretty, or kind- maybe we won’t have as much fun if you aren’t nice- but I will always love you.
Footnote here: If you struggle to really accept this notion of unconditional love, maybe it is because you haven’t yet fully accepted the love of your Heavenly Father. I talk a lot about this in my book Daughter by Design: Discovering Your Identity as God’s Beloved Daughter. Consider deepening your understanding of this for yourself, and it will help you understand it as a parent too. Daughter by Design is available in paperback or Kindle on Amazon or for purchase directly from me here.