As everyone clapped, I looked at the schedule. Up next was Lianne Raymond’s talk “Love with Wild Abandon”. I silently groaned a bit inside. I think I might have even thrown a tiny eye roll. As a jet-lagged introvert in a room full of mostly extroverts, I wasn’t feeling too loving at the moment and I didn’t have any clue what loving with wild abandon could possibly mean.
When Lianne took the stage, I instantly felt a huge shift in my body. She was so….soothing. This woman emanated love and I wanted to run up and hug her. This was super alarming since I am not a huggy, chirpy type of person (at least until I reaaaaally get to know someone).
She started talking, and I was captivated. She took us back to when she was a little girl. She talked about how she always felt loved by her father, no matter what; she never felt there were any conditions on his love. She knew that she could be “good” or “bad” and there was no doubt he would still love her. In fact, exactly what she said was,
“I never worried that who I was or what I did would remove me from his love.”
I started sobbing, because I knew my girls couldn’t feel that way. I did withhold my love. Not in an outward, “I don’t love you” kind of way. But in a passive-aggressive, I will turn my back on you kind of way. Sometimes, if my daughters didn’t act how I wanted them to act or be how I wanted them to be, I would unconsciously withhold my love. I was giving them the message that they had to be a certain way in order to earn my love. As Lianne said, I was using love as a tool to manipulate them. If you please me, I give you my love. If you don’t, I remove it.
I decided right then that I never wanted my daughters to feel that way again.
Does that mean that I let them run around and trash the house like crazy people? Throw noodles at people in restaurants? Eat fruit loops and pickles for dinner? Do whatever the hell they want? Of course not. But it does mean that when they forget to take their shoes off for the 428th time and get mud all over the floor, I don’t make them feel like they just threw a puppy against a wall. It means that while I tell them their behavior is unacceptable, I never tell them they themselves are bad. It means that I try to let them have their emotional reactions, even the highly annoying ones, without lecturing them, talking them out of it, or attempting to “fix” it. And most importantly, I reassure them. A lot. I tell them there is nothing they could ever say or do that could make me stop loving them. They never tire of hearing it (and they love to thrown down challenges like “even if I put dog poop under your pillow?” or “even if I rubbed your toothbrush on my butt?”)
How do you want your kids to feel? Do you want them to expend energy worrying about whether or not they are earning your love, wondering if what they are doing is acceptable? Or do you want them to feel loved, safe and secure so they can go out into the world to learn, play, and explore, knowing that they can count on you to be there when they get scared or fall down or make mistakes?
I want my daughters to feel like Lianne. So, as always, I’m never going to stop trying.
In the comments below, let me know…
- What is the best parenting advice you ever got?
- Do you find yourself withholding your love?
- What changes can you make to ensure that your kids always know you love them unconditionally?