Recently, I went to an all women’s retreat. No kids. Lodge in the woods. An entire weekend. It was just as relaxing as it sounds. It was lead by Gina—a woman that I admire very much—and I had looked forward to going for months. Between the not changing diapers and the doing whatever my little heart pleased, there were teaching sessions offered throughout the weekend. On the first day, Gina told the fifty women who were present this:
“The greatest gift you can ever give your children is to tell them you love them
—and have them believe it.”
The point of that session was not that we needed to be loving our children. In fact, the statement was made almost as an afterthought before moving on to her next point. The words slowly sank into my heart, however, and I mulled them over. And over. And over. For the duration of the retreat, my mind circled back to that thought as I considered my own children.
I tell my children that I love them, certainly. But is it something that my actions and words support? When my three year old makes me so frustrated that I yell loudly enough for the neighbors to hear, does she believe that I love her? When I got so irritated that I slammed my hand on our dining room table and made my 18 month old cry, did that give here a feeling of security? Recently, after a particularly rough day, I told my daughter that I wanted her to know that I love her even when she’s been bad and gets in trouble. She then told me, “But sometimes you work on your computer, and you don’t love me then.”
What’s the best way to address a statement like that? I don’t believe that I shouldn’t ever touch my computer in front of her. I do want her to learn to entertain herself. But it did make me think about the way I talk to her while I’m trying to e-mail someone, or pay bills, or write. When she asks for my attention in those moments, I respond with irritation and a snippiness that is often unwarranted. Yes, I should be able to do some things that don’t involve my kids. But it’s more important that I respond to my child in a way that doesn’t convey irritation when her actions have not justified that kind of reaction. If the e-mail goes out two minutes later than I wanted it to and I can keep my attitude in check, it’s bound to be a better day for everyone.
I desperately want my children to believe me when I tell them that I love them. Even when they’re in trouble, even when I’m having a bad day, even when they make me so angry that I have to take a minute to myself to regain my composure. I want it to be the one thing they can always stand on,the one thing that always makes them feel that they have a safe place to land when the world is cruel. They will undoubtedly hear from others in this life that they are not loved by them, but please, Lord, don’t ever let that be what they hear from me. So I’d like to add a late New Years Resolution, if you’ll allow. I want to make sure that—every day—through words or hugs or chocolate chip cookies, there is at least one moment when I tell them “I love you,” and they believe it with all their little souls.