Love is a six-letter verb, and it is spelt A-C-C-E-P-T.
When your baby was born, it felt like you’d been handed a live doll to cherish and enjoy – with a few exceptions. Notably, the baby’s tendency to spew disgusting things from both ends. And its penchant for making continuous mewling noises which increased in decibels over time, and slowly shredded your nerves to confetti.
So – did you wrinkle your nose and drop it in the dustbin? Leave the baby someplace without a return address label? Of course not! You wrinkled your nose, cleaned it up, sighed, cleaned it up again, and when it finally stayed clean for a few minutes, you cuddled the baby and murmured words of love.
Or you rocked and soothed and patted him, sleep-walking a tread in the carpet, crooning for endless hours as your arms threatened to drop out of their sockets. But you never once considered just letting him cry through the night. How could you? You love him. Your love is a living, breathing entity, and you accept the baby just as he is.
Fast forward to the time this baby is a toddler. Suddenly, she discovers that she is a person different from you. She learns to say ‘No’ in many ways. She won’t eat when you feed her. She refuses to be dressed, or to be soothed. She wants to sleep when it isn’t yet nap time. She refuses to go to bed till all hours of the morning. You say she’s going through the Terrible Twos, and continue to hug her with fervor.
Fast-forward some more to when your little darling digs his feet in, puts his ears back, and in no uncertain terms, says NO to you. Suddenly, it is a contest of wills. Your will against his, and you feel compelled to impose your will onto him. “Listen to me,” you say, “I am your mom. I know that this is bad for you. Don’t do it.”
“Listen to me,” you say, “I am your dad. Don’t you want to be big and strong like me? If you don’t drink your milk and eat your vegetables, you will not grow big and strong. You will not have good muscles. You will be weak and puny. Listen to me. Drink your milk. Eat your vegetables. That is how I became so big and strong.” (Really? Wonder if your parents would agree with this! )
As you know, this approach rarely works over the long term. After the first couple of times, growing up at some unspecified time in the future is simply not enough incentive for your child to drink the milk and eat the veggies. So he says “No”. And refuses to budge from that NO.
As these NO’s keep piling up, you start finding fault with your child.
“Why don’t you colour properly – within the lines?”
“Can’t you eat your food faster?”
“Must you be so messy?”
Sure – you are saying this to ‘improve’ your child, to make him better than he was before, but somewhere, the message he is getting is that you are withholding approval and love.
After all, look at it from his point of view. He’s never said to you:
“Why don’t you lose some weight, Mom? You’re beginning to look lumpy around the hips.”
“Dad, you’re balding. Can’t you do something about it?”
“Why don’t you learn to cook some new dish? I’m tired of eating your five staple dishes.”
“Why don’t you learn how to reverse into a parking space?”
You have to admit it – in the years that she has been growing, you too, have been changing. When she was two, you were probably swinging her high up into the air and catching her in your arms as she came hurtling down. Now that she’s seven, she’d still like those ‘high ones’ but when you say it tires you, or that your arms hurt, she doesn’t ask you to do something about it.
She just A-C-C-E-P-T-S you the way you are – at this moment. If you are mad at her, she doesn’t tell you that you have no reason to be mad at her. She accepts that you are angry, and deals with it as best she can. When you’ve cooled down, she’ll probably begin cajoling you again so she can have her own way…
We are blessed to have children who accept us. Why can’t we love them back the same way? Why can’t we love them for who they are?
So he’s throwing a tantrum. It’s bad for him. He’s turning blue from lack of oxygen. And on top of that, you get mad at him!
What happened to your love for the baby that did impossible things? You just went on loving him right back. No matter what he threw at you (literally!), you just kept on loving him.
I feel it is when our children begin to be independent that we begin to default on this complete acceptance. So long as they are not actively opposing our will, we find it easy to love (read A-C-C-E-P-T) them. The moment they exert themselves as persons with independent points of view and different wishes from ours, we feel the need to overcome those “No’s”. And we try to do so in the worst way possible – we withhold ourselves. We become cold. We frown. We step back. We give them half-hearted hugs. We turn away. We give them the silent treatment.
And still they love us! And try to appease us! Bless our children!
It is humbling to be a parent.
We have a lot of love for our children. Now if only we can love them – because love is a six-letter verb…