When you become a parent, the one thing you can always count on is the constancy of change and adaptation in your life. You learn as you go and follow what feels right to you. You soon see as your child grows into themselves that you are continuously exploring unknown territory. Like discovering a new frontier or remote solar system, you realize the lay of the land and it is specific to each child.
You bring your personal history and aptitudes (or inaptitude) with you when you parent. The interpersonal journey of caring for another human being reflects much more than simply caring for another. It requires great potential for personal and relationship growth. You learn volumes and keep on learning as a result of the experience of caregiving over time.
The world of parenting is ripe with juicy life lessons, uncharted waters, and precious terrain. This is true with each child in your care. To care for a child well and with heart, skill, and consciousness is to take full advantage of the endless opportunities to love and to learn. Each child is a gift from heaven, in whatever package or personality they come in. You are expected to consistently love and regard yours as your own, are tested to love more than ever before, accept, and honor your individuality and your shared bond.
In the initial stages of infancy, you tenderly hold your baby close in your arms, breathe this new life into your own and experience pure, unadulterated love. The closeness, touch, eye contact, and symbiosis is necessary for the bonding hormone oxytocin to be felt and enjoyed by both mother and child. You do not have the expectation that your love or the lack of conditions around your love will be challenged. The love you feel is all-encompassing as the bonding process unfolds. As protector and guide, you develop a deep sense of unconditional love for your little one.
In these early stages of parenting, it is a simple task to love without conditions. Your baby has no words to argue with you or exhibit behaviors that offend or defy you. You cannot imagine your unconditional love being threatened as the safe cocoon between you is preserved. It is a mutual “falling in love” feeling that changes over time as the relationship grows, evolves, and resolves. The deep love between parent and child touches the very core of your heart and soul.
Fast-forward to raising your toddler, school-age, adolescent, or teenager and notice your feelings when your child displeases, frustrates, challenges, or downright disrespects you.
You may be at your wit’s end with the incessant variety of “no’s” expressed by your emerging toddler. When your older child tells you an untruth or gets into trouble at home or at school, you may be shocked and deal with it as best you can. Even with a rebellious teen who may not want anything to do with you, you find the balance between dealing with the behavior and loving your child just the same. Loving unconditionally and with a lifetime of consistency is the key.
“When done skillfully, the way you relate to your child can transform your relationship.” You are the “parent in charge and your child has a voice.” (Sidell, 2015) Breathe through every moment, every triumph and challenge, and every stage. Breathe deeply into the heart of your heart and into the depth of your love.
No matter what is thrown at you, asked of you, or required of you to see, hear, feel, or say, lead with your unconditional love and set the necessary limits to ensure that the message of love always comes shining through. Make it known to yourself and your child from the beginning of your time together until the end of your time together that your unconditional love is something to be counted on.