Often our love for our children expresses itself in hugs, in yes’s and “for sure’s”. In “let’s do just what you wish and want”, in following our little (or big) one’s lead, beck and call.
And sometimes love expresses itself in clear direction, in no’s, in putting your foot down and saying “not beyond here”. In obstructing a desire. In negating a wish.
The yes’s are usually the easier way to go. Love pours out naturally that way, and comes right back at us. With smiles and happiness, with thank you’s and contentment.
The no’s can be hard to deliver. We want our children to be happy right now. We also want them to like us, right now too. We like being their immediate heroes and heroines. We love seeing joy erupt in them. It is hard to see disappointment or hear downright “I hate you’s” coming out of their eyes, skin and words.
But no’s – if sourced from the Stillness at your centre, if coming from love and creativity rather than trigger and reaction – those no’s are just as sacred, just as loving as the yes’s coming from that same place and state within ourselves. Just as loving.
It’s a cold morning, minus 7 degrees celsius (that’s 19.5 fahrenheit). Girl gets dressed in her usual garb: jeans, sneakers, cute shirt, with hoodie ‘in case’ it gets cold. And specifically: no hat, no gloves, no winter boots, no winter coat, merrily and obliviously attired for a regular day at school.
Dad sees the unfolding mismatch between dress and outside temperatures, and puts his foot down, “Either you get dressed warmly, or you don’t go to school”. Distress ensues. Some dialogue too, but mainly distress and, “You don’t get me, you don’t listen to me, I’ll be fine!”
Dad stays firm, calm, loving. Doesn’t budge on the condition and knows he is not going to be the popular parent today. He takes a deep breath and stays the course.
Girl comes downstairs, holding out wrist warmers. “Can I wear these instead of gloves?” Hmmm, what will dad do now? Here’s a chance to appease her if he gives in. It will make her feel heard, offer a sense of compromise. He considers. He is tempted for a moment. The whole energy would relax, things would slide back to their usual amicability. But she had frostbite last winter. Her fingers get cold fast. He leans into the deeper recesses of his father-love and again holds the line.
Another explosion ensues, and the announcement: “You never listen to me!”
Finally both get out the door, dad and girl, dressed for the minus 7 celsius, silent girl, dad with a nod to mum, “I know she can’t stand me right now, but I love her too much to let her freeze or risk getting sick. She’ll be OK. and I’m OK too – I’m OK being the ‘bad’ guy for her to stay warm. I love her.”
There it is – another form of love.
A key distinction between conditions, boundaries and non-negotiables being ‘extensions of love’ versus ‘unnecessary’ force is where they come from. If they are based on fearful projections, desire for power or senseless discipline, they are not love in action.
The discernment of where a ‘no’ originates from is one of the ongoing practices of parenthood.
Choosing love over and over again, and being willing to go all the way with the choice so that it stands regardless of the forms it takes, regardless of whether popularity and ease ensue, or not: that is the love our children need from us in order to grow well and in health.