“I believed strongly in attachment parenting. I was young mom, I was caring, attentive and spent lots of time reflecting on my parenting (and by “reflecting”, I really mean second guessing)” – but that’s the topic of another blog post). So I loved being a mother, but at times, I was thoroughly drained. Here is a picture of me with my toddler. She was on my hip most of the time.
One day, among a group of women at a retreat, I found myself experiencing some sad emotions. It was a beautiful group of women, dedicated to self-love and the creation of an authentic support circle. My daughter, who was just a little over 1 at the time, came up to me with her arms out. It appeared she wanted me to pick her up, but I just didn’t have it in me. It was hard because I was certain that I was scarring her for life by not picking her up in her “time of need”. “Mommy is just sad right now, maybe you can go to auntie Heather for “uppies”, then I will pick you up soon…ok?” I forced a weak smile. She stood there and looked at me, appearing saddened by my inability to comfort her.
Another woman quickly realized what was going on. “She’s not coming to get you to pick her up, she’s coming to hug you and love you!”
She was right. I could see instantly that the sadness was actually deflation – see seemed to feel… rejected? She was not seeking comfort, she was giving it – freely and beautifully.
One of the women picked her up and placed her on me. She melted into my body, arms wrapped around me. She rested her curly head on my shoulder. I cried even more deeply as the women sat around us and drank in the beautiful expression of love in front of them. Many of them cried too. Many of them also felt love for their mothers, and love for their daughters. All of this from the perfect expression of caring and love of a toddler. She was our teacher that day.
That day was a turning point for me. I began to realize how much I saw attachment parenting and motherhood as a one way street – I give , baby takes. I started observing other moms and babies and noticed the same pattern over and over. The child would try to express caring or love, sometimes in response to mom’s sadness, but sometimes just ‘cause. The child seemed almost always saddened when their extension wasn’t received or was misperceived as a request for something. OR, mom was so busy feeling like she isn’t a good enough mom (or trying to be the perfect mom) to see that her baby loves her exactly as she is!
So now let’s look at you… Do you remember the last time you extended love, caring etc., and the person, in their discomfort, business, distraction etc., didn’t accept or recognize your caring? How did you feel? How did it impact you the next time you felt the impulse to share love? Often our inability to receive love and support stem from our feelings of inadequacy or believing that we don’t deserve it.
We don’t see this in nature. A rose opens to receive as much water as it needs. It doesn’t say “Oh, no thank you, I don’t really need all that water!” In return, the rose blooms and provides pollen for bees. A perfect cycle.
But…maybe you are saying..we shouldn’t rely on our kids for love, right? YES, I agree. Our kids need to know that we are grown ups and we have the ability to care for our needs or have people in our lives who care for us and they are not responsible for our happiness. But…receiving love, when it is given, in a healthy relationship, lays the foundation for a child who is comfortable giving and taking, not just taking!
So what do we do with all of this talk of giving and taking? How can we practice this in daily life? If you feel called to explore this aspect of relationship (and I guarantee you it will change how you experience other relationships too), here are some ideas. Please feel free to add some of your own.
Directions for receiving (can be used at any time when we recognize the flicker of love coming our way): Take a slow deep breath in your belly, soften the muscles around your heart, and take in the love in their eyes for you…sip it, gulp it…yum. Nice eh?
CAUTION: Once you start experiencing love, you will crave it, and see it in all kinds of places. Please prepare yourself for this!
– When your baby hugs you, or puts her head on your shoulders, close your eyes and practice directions.
-Next time you change a diaper, pause and take in your baby’s gaze as per above.
-When your baby asks to be picked up, open your arms and receive them fully. Feel how they love you unconditionally
One of baby’s first cuddles…they are so in love.
Share , share, share…your stories and experiences with giving and receiving. Especially your pictures!