My daughter was given a special award at her school the other day. Her father and I were beyond proud, and while celebrating with her at dinner, were practically gushing. She has always been a pleasure to parent, and in her 14 years has given us very little cause for concern. Sitting there, busting with pride, we told her how much we loved her, how lucky we felt to have her as our child, and how impressed we are by her accomplishments thus far.
Then, it hit me. Too much pressure!!!! I switched gears immediately, and emphatically said, “We would love you no matter what. We are definitely proud of you today, but our love does not hinge on awards or soccer goals or grades. Our love for you is unconditional. You do not need to earn it. It is yours, forever. Do you understand?”
She responded to my intensity with a, “Yeah mom. I know,” a my mom is sooo weird look on her face. Still, I was glad I said it. I know she didn’t understand where it came from, but as she continues on her life’s journey, she needs to be confident in our love. She needs to know that no matter where she goes, or what she does, there are two people who love her, definitively and unequivocally.
A parent’s love is complete and impossible to describe. It is such a given, we sometimes take for granted our kids are feeling it. It is easy to praise our children when they are doing well. It is natural to shower them with affection when they are exceeding our expectations. It is even often natural to express our love when our children are troubled, when things aren’t going well. At these times, we often understandably say, “I love you, but …”
Just as important as making sure they know we love them when we aren’t happy with them, is reminding them when we are very happy with them, we would love them anyway. Otherwise, kids, especially vulnerable adolescents, can mistakenly associate our love for them with their personal successes. There is already too much pressure on teens to be amazing, to do everything well and to portray a perfect image. There is too much pressure to get “Likes” and “Followers.” Parents, let your kids know you love them just for being them – always, forever and no matter what. They will always have your “Likes” and your love will “Follow” them wherever they may go.
“To love someone deeply gives you strength. Being loved by someone deeply gives you courage.” – Lao Tzu