The way we commonly experience love in our lives begins with the conflicted and complex relationships in our families of origin.
We love our siblings but at times, we may actually hate them. They can be our worst enemies. A not so benevolent sister or brother knows all your weaknesses and can exploit them. Children in the same home compete for food, money, clothing, the remote control, the compute, parental approval and attention. When children are raised in a competitive rather than cooperative home, unconditional love may not come as easily.
A parent’s love for a child may be a great opportunity to express unconditional love – love without judgement, complete acceptance and enduring patience. In reality, we all as parents fall short of such perfection. A parent may make his affection dependent upon his child’s obedience and performance. That child may be forever trying to live up to the father’s standards and perhaps never feel good enough or deserving of love.
Parents can tie up their own identity and self-esteem in their child, and act selfishly rather than selflessly in their relationship. The first step in nurturing unconditional love in ourselves as parents is to put the wellbeing of our children first. There will be times when we feel annoyed, disappointed or frustrated with our children’s behaviour and often our feelings are tied up with our own needs and a desire for control, but we must not let our reactions overshadow the positive expression of our love.
My model for unconditional love was my own mother. She devoted herself to all of us in her family. She nurtured our bodies as well as our spirits. She taught me to believe in myself by believing in me. When I misbehaved and when I fell, she would not abandon me. She always saw the best in me.
As we grew up, her circle of concern expanded. Already involved with her church and her community, she volunteered most of her time to help others in need. Each day, she would perform not-so-random acts of kindness to brighten someone else’s day.
When my mom died unexpectedly nearly 9 years ago, I felt a terrible void in my life. I missed her presence and that endless well of compassion and caring she shared with the world. But with time, I realized that her greatest gift was her love, and I saw that that love did not die. That love was within me, and it was for me to give to my children and the other people I could reach in my own life.
As imperfect as I am, I carry on my mother’s legacy by loving my children and others as perfectly as I can so that they too will love without judgement and without limit.