Last week, my daughter had a hard day. That evening, she sat in a tearful heap on the floor as she recounted it all. She described walking into a big stack of work sitting on her desk after taking a week off from school. She went on to divulge the fears she had in her ability to finish it all. She spilled her anxieties of sitting out of her favorite activities in order to get it all done. To make matters worse, she also shared how someone hurt her feelings that day when they shut a curtain on her face as she was looking out at the snow.
To be completely transparent, everything in me wanted to say, “Buck up, baby. Life is hard. Do you want see my inbox after a week away from work? We are not victims in this family.”
It’s probably clear from that statement that my nature is to push and empower. I come from a long line of, “pull up your bootstraps, dust yourself off and let’s go” type of people. Regardless of my nature, my desire to grow as her mama has to be greater than what comes easiest to me.
So in this instance, out of sheer exhaustion or God’s grace, I listened to her cry and processed carefully what to say to her.
The power in this moment was an opportunity to connect with her, not to condone or correct her.
Instead of communicating, “Don’t be weak,” I hoped to communicate, “You are safe here.”
As parents, we hold a very powerful hand of cards. It’s up to us, moment by moment, to decide which card is best to play to help our kids become their best selves. We have a great responsibility to teach through experiences and even tough conversations. We get to extend unwavering love through all the emotions, thoughts, deepest desires and phases of our kid’s lives.
There is absolutely no other voice in a child’s life that is more important in shaping their view of love than a parent.
No matter what each day holds, I want my daughter to know 3 things about REAL love:
- You are Accepted – Real love means feeling accepted enough to allow all parts of yourself to be seen. I want to be a place where my daughter can bring the most and least desirable parts of herself without masking. I want to try to remember that it is not my place to tell her what to feel. Instead, I hope to help shape a better understanding of the emotions, beliefs and fears she might feel while reinforcing truth.
- You are Safe – Real love means feeling safe enough to unveil emotions attached to our behaviors. Unveiling emotions brings to light fear and helps us find freedom. I want to be my daughter’s first call when her heart is broken or when she doesn’t know how to cook her first meal, without fear of my judgment or critique.
- You are Heard – Real love means feeling heard in a place where different perspectives can be shared. It is not a “my way or the highway” type of relationship. It is one where we can seek to be understood and honor each other in our differences.
My prayer is that she will remember these things about our relationship when the stakes are much higher. I realize that how I respond to her now, at 7, will determine the trust she will feel to let me in at 17.
What do you want those closest to you to know about the way you love them?