Every day, in a million different ways, our children are asking if we really see and hear them. They want to know that they are loved unconditionally, that there is precious space for them, and that they matter. They don't care about the formalities and various methods of parenting, they just want love and affirmation.
As a mother of 5, I can attest to the diverse methods of attention-getting that children communicate. I have children that gently climb into my lap and hold my face between their palms and pour from their heart in mushy, poetic ways. I also have children who scream in random bouts and kick walls and push their siblings in an attempt for me to notice them.
Lately, I have overdone the mom-tone and the phrase because I said so, and I have been utterly impatient with the tantrums and the tension. I have begun to respond to their misbehaviors in damaging ways. It's easier to plant a child in time-out than taking them in my arms and working through the heart issue that brought them to those behaviors in the first place.
There's a Swedish proverb that says "Love me when I least deserve it, for that's when I need it most," and it is SO TRUE isn't it? That our misbehaving comes from some depth of our being that wants reassurance. Sometimes we even act up to see how we'll be met. There are times when we just need to hear that we aren't our behavior, and that we're loved in spite of how we handle ourselves. Sometimes, we need an outside source to help us navigate our emotions with care and resolve.
I don't have all of the answers, but I do know this one thing - that I desire to connect with my children more than I desire to correct their behavior. I always want them to feel accepted and loved regardless of how they act. When they know that they are loved beyond measure and that their behavior cannot break our connection to them, then they begin to outgrow the need for expressing such chaos.
One of my favorite parenting philosophies is in this statement by Alvin Price. "Parents need to fill a child's bucket of self-esteem so high that the rest of the world can't poke enough holes to drain it dry." Our children need to grow into healthy ways of dealing with the exhaustive array of emotions that they will encounter in this life. The best way to help in that process is to advocate for them. Sometimes, that means holding them when you really want to be as far from them as possible. Other times, it is boundaries, and most times, it is in validating their feelings and guiding them through to the other side. We need to stand up for our children in every opportunity, even when it is the more difficult, more time-consuming path.
Mere authoritative correction can demean all parties involved. It breaks connection, encourages blind obedience, and overlooks the heart of who we are and what we need. More than anything, I want to raise children who are compassionate and caring, children who will have patience with others and enough love to sit with them in their own disturbances, so that they can move forward in life too.
We all need to know that our well of love will never end, and although we are fallible humans giving imperfect love, we can still love well. It will be messy and imperfect and we will fail, but we can bridge those misgivings with humility and forgiveness. We can teach our children that loving well isn't loving perfectly, but being committed to the connection that we are all birthed and rooted in desiring.
Some rather encouraging and inspiring quotes for parenting:
"as it stands, motherhood is a sort of wilderness through which each woman hacks her way, part martyr, part pioneer; a turn of events from which some women derive feelings of heroism, while others experience a sense of exile from the world they knew. -Rachel Cusk
"there's no way to be a perfect mother, but a million ways to be a good one." -Jill Churchill
"If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea." Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Jewish Proverb - A mother understands what a child does not say.
The process of shaping the child, shapes also the mother herself. Reverence for her sacred burden calls her to all that is pure and good, that she may teach primarily by her own humble, daily example.
“A wise mother knows: It is her state of consciousness that matters. Her gentleness and clarity command respect. Her love creates security.”
“Mother is the reflective principle, the balancing agent for the child. Like a guru, she allows the child to make mistakes and loves the child without condition. Like nature, she allows consequences to unfold and balance to be restored when it is lost."