One of the gifts of parenting is that you get to love and be loved with someone in this intimate, real, daily-life way that at the same time transcends all daily life stuff. It’s a bit of a mind-boggle to ponder on the relationship with one’s child. There are so many angles and tones to it.
Who knows us as intimately as our child? They see us at our best and at our worst, in public and in private, dressed and undressed, on stage and in the toilet. We see them when they are happy and when they are sick, we are their worst nightmare and their best fantasy, their most horrible and depriving and the source of all good things… That’s pretty intimate stuff.
Most of the time however we focus on the daily grind stuff. Feeding them, dressing them, getting their homework done, making sure everything they need for the day is in their bag, co-ordinating lifts to school and extra-murals, worrying about discipline, how to get them to listen better, respect you more, not hit their brother, be a polite upstanding member of society… the exhaustion of the non-stop picking up off the floor, chasing after them to get them to do what needs to be done, washing dishes – again, making food – again (that they complain about), having to field the ongoing, “I’m boooored” and “You’re not the boss of me!” and “Why can’t I? All the other children in my class are”… Can you BELIEVE we do all this stuff everyday?! Mind-boggling.
Lately, in the midst of all the usual logistical operations, I have been remembering to regularly sneak peaks into the center of the organisation – the love that is there between me and these beings that are my children.
That love is just as mind-boggling as the daily grind stuff. Whether or not things are good between you, it’s a pure, direct, unquestioned connection between your heart and theirs.
Now, that sounds lovely in theory but in reality it is something many of us fear. To let ourselves be open that way feels really vulnerable and exposed. I have found, as I let myself feel that love, that I need courage to stay open to it. I think maybe that is why so many of us do spend most of our time focusing on the daily grind stuff. It’s exhausting but it distracts from having to feel all wide open and vulnerable to the way your heart is connected to this being who is your child. I’ve heard people say about their child, “It’s like having your heart walking around in the world and you have no control over what will happen to it.”
There are not many of us who do not protect ourselves in some way from that. And we do it by shutting down our love a little – just making it all a little less vulnerable. We provide, we work, we ‘do’ but we avoid ‘being’ much. It’s too real and too raw for many of us. School holidays freak us out – what are we going to ‘do’ with them? All that potential intimacy…
And then we secretly feel life is bland and meaningless.
Which is what happens when you are scared to add the spice into a dish because you worry it will be overwhelming.
So if you want a bland life, keep protecting yourself from love. But if you want to enjoy the flavours of your life, here is what I recommend:
Open yourself to the sweetness that is loving your child. Focus on it deliberately and let yourself feel it to whatever degree you can in that moment. The sweetness of it is never the same. At times it is tinged with bitterness, at times with spice, sometimes it’s a little sour, sometimes subtle, sometimes rich, sometimes overpoweringly sweet – but after letting yourself have it, you always feel enriched, grounded and satisfied with life. How many tasty things can you say that about?
When you look at your child eating, getting ready for school, sitting reading, resisting what you are telling him, being rude – whatever – think about the fact that you really love this person. Let that be the main thought in your mind as you deal with him or her. Try to open your heart to this person. Sometimes you may look at how disgusting she’s being and feel amazement that you love this child and other times it will be obvious that you do but it will always be sweet and satisfying to tap into that love.
Try it this week.
How do you feel when you think about doing this?