As I continue to work on things away from this blog (which is a collection of Free-Time/Casual Online Writing, Remarks, And Notes By ME Whelan) and continue to figure out what goes and what stays of my existing online-writing, the de-emphasizing of one or another continues as well....

Sunday, July 5, 2015

A Discussion About Mothers and Love

January 4, 2014

This is a three-part post from my Bubblews account and copied here.
Introduction to Original Post 

There's a post by Bubbler, @DavidAaron, that discusses the two different types of love that children need from parents. Rather than leave a long comment on the post, I thought I may as well share my own thoughts on the subject in my own post.

I don't want to come across as if I'm arguing with, debating, or otherwise picking apart what DavidAaron said; because I'm just not. The two types of love mentioned in the post are "mother love" and "father love", and it's made clear that those descriptions of types of love are essentially only labels that describe the type of love, and that they're neither mutually exclusive nor "assigned" to one gender or another.

In any case, the post that inspired my own thoughts here did just that - get me to think (yet again, because this is a subject I think most mothers think about time and time again from the time they become mothers) about the kind of love I have for my children. Since the author of post mentioned the issue of respect, along with the different types of love, I wanted to include the respect aspect of love here too. Since the subject is related to loving my children I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that I've had so much to say that I'd need to divide my thoughts on the matter into three separate posts.

In any case, without intending my posts to come across as giant rants (because they’re not), below is Part I of III – with thanks to DavidAaron for inspiring me to ponder all this (and forget about all the snow and freezing temperatures we’re having) for the last couple of hours. (I’m kind of uncomfortable about the length of the “coverage” of the topic, but a) nobody who doesn’t want to read won’t read all this anyway, and b) I do think it’s a subject worth discussing as much, and as often, as possible.

 Part I

While I haven't misunderstood the use of those labels for the different types of love, I'll admit to find them slightly offensive because they essentially do imply that a more lenient, less "structured", type of love is associated with mothers; and that the more "thinking" and "structured" type is associated with fathers. While I obviously can't write about how a father feels about his children; as a mother, the one thing in which I've always had faith and confidence has been the way that the love I have for my children has - without a lot of thought - quite naturally acted as a foundation on which all the necessary elements of love are built (or else, from which all of those necessary elements grow). The love I've always had for my children is the most whole and perfect kind of love one could imagine, and because it is whole it has all the necessary and important elements that children need. In other words, I do think that children need that kind of whole and perfect love from both of their parents.

Also, I've seen for myself that as much as so many parents may believe they love their child in a "whole" way, or in a way that is the absolutely-healthiest way; many really don't. With regard to the love between parents and child, I, personally, haven't had any ambivalence at all. I had two incredibly loving, incredibly kind and caring, parents who were great parents. There were some things, of course, that they did or said that - really - wasn't quite as "enlightened" as would have been ideal. But, my parents did a good job of raising a kid who had a lot of understanding about the fact that the "best parent in the world" will make one mistake or another; so for the most part, most of those mistakes either of them made didn't affect me much. (A couple or maybe a few did, but more to the extent that my personality was impacted, rather than (again, for the most part) my general mental-/emotional- well-being. (In other words, I have a couple of relatively minor issues that I blame my otherwise loving and well-intentioned parents for. :) ) In any case,

I absolutely, absolutely, loved both of my parents and understood that no parent is perfect all the time.
Years ago I read an analysis of the different types of love that exists in different types of relationships that people have. There were two elements said to be common in all types of love (regardless of relationship) when love was healthiest and whole. Those two elements are respect and admiration. Respect and admiration are things that people can have in less-than-complete ways. For example, one person can respect or admire another for, say, his artistic ability or kindness toward his children. Someone may respect or admire another for his appearance, professional success, generosity, and/or any number of other things; so, again, partial or compartmentalized respect and admiration don't necessarily equal whole and healthy love.

With regard to admiration, I know that I absolutely admired each of my three children just because they were "wonderful in general" (although that admiration had its start when they were at an age when there wasn't much opportunity for them to be anything but admirable (within the context of the young age). As each child got a little older (just as I understood that parents sometimes mess up), I understood that
children sometimes mess up. So, I didn't see their mess-ups as reason not to continue to admire them for the wonderful people they were - for their hearts (although I'll admit that I couldn't help but admire how incredibly beautiful they were looks-wise). Looks aside, I admired them because they were (in spite of their occasional mess-up) absolutely fine people (most children really are, and it's unfortunate that so few people see them that way).

As they grew up I came to admire traits each of them had, so today I admire each of them for things that are theirs alone and part of their unique personalities. When my children were younger, though, I found that it was admiring them that made me naturally want to encourage their bringing out the best in themselves.

As far as respect goes, some people do say that respect must be earned. I say respect must be given to each and every child who comes into this world, because each and every child is an individual person in his own right - no matter how tiny he is, how dependent he is on others for care, or how many times he commits one of the many, common, misdeeds that most children commit as part of being works-in-progress. So I thought it was important to respect my children from the very start, but I also expected them to respect me in return. This could be the kind of respect referred to when we say "all men are created equal". Every human being is a person in his own right and deserves to be respected as such.

A Discussion About Mothers and Love - Part II of III

I believe that respect for a child from Day 1 is one of the best guides parents will ever have when it comes to the big and small ways they make choices as parents. Also, respecting a child does for him what respect does for anyone: It makes him feel more "seen" as a person, and respect more in return. After all, it's a lot more effective to be able to say to a child (or teen), "I don't treat you that way, and you are not to treat me that way either." (When I was a child and an adult didn't seem to realize that I was a person, just like he was; my thoughts were always essentially, "Here's someone I won't be listening to. If he's so stupid he can't figure out that I'm a person just like he is then he's not someone who is smart enough for me to listen to.")

Another important part of love, however, is, of course, the bond that forms when parents care for children, enjoy being with them, and aim to help them enjoy being with their parent as well. Children tend to enjoy being with parents regardless of whether parents aim to be people who are enjoyable to be with; and while the remark I'm about to make is an off-hand one that I probably shouldn't just guess about, I'm guessing that the bond that grows between a parent and a child grows into the strongest kind of bond when parents understand that children need more than just being in the same room, or same car, together; or having a parent help with putting on shoes or getting his laundry clean.

"Unconditional Love"

My own approach to reconciling the two different types of love that have been labeled (inaccurately sometimes and/or incompletely sometimes) as "mother love" and "father love" has not been a matter of separating loving a child no matter what he is or does versus loving him but also aiming to let him know that, as a person, there are some expectations placed on him as far as his character and morality go.

All people (parents, children, whoever else) need to understand that by virtue of its being love, intentionally hurting/harming others means that intentionally engaging in hurtful behavior is choosing to (for lack of better choices of words) "contaminate" or "break" love. It's important to keep in mind that word, "intentional", because we all unintentionally hurt someone else at one time or another.
Another part of the reasoning that I shared with my children was that while children do mess up (and sometimes may even hurt someone intentionally), the rare incident of that kind of bad behavior won't kill love, particularly since children are "just children". But, too many incidents of that kind of behavior will add up, "poke holes in" love, and eventually (in some cases) kill it.

My reasoning has always been that love is only love when it is pure enough not to be contaminated by the "evil" that is intentionally hurting someone else (and, by the way, that "someone else", as far as I was concerned, included me). "Intentional", of course, means the child has to be old enough to understand the concept of hurting someone. One-year-old babies who smack a parent in the face, or take a bite out of the hand that is pushing the shopping cart while the one-year-old rides in the child-seat don't count.

This kind of "structure" to the definition of love not only leaves room for a whole lot of messing up and being loved anyway (in other words, being loved unconditionally). Most children who are loved and know that they are, and a lot of children who may not be so well loved or who may not think they are, do not intentionally hurt others - at least not before they're teens. The younger child who does intentionally hurt others more than, perhaps, a time or two when he stands up to a bully (for example) needs professional help. So, in practice, continuing to love the younger child who has more than once intentionally hurt someone else doesn't have to mean being happy about his troubled behavior. It does mean, however, doing what is the loving thing for him and not washing one's hands of him because he's "hopeless".

So, one way or another, the child who has been raised with the message that the only way to damage or destroy love (whether it's love for him, or the love he has for someone else) is to intentionally hurt someone. It places responsibility for caring for love in his own hands; while also letting him know that he is loved unconditionally and whether he doesn't do his homework, gets acne, gets pregnant, gets himself addicted to some substance, doesn't get into college or doesn't get a prestigious career for himself.
Also, and getting back to respect, respect - like love - is something that should forever remain a given unless the individual intentionally hurts someone else; because respect is part of that whole and healthy love; and respect, like love itself, should only be damaged or destroyed by behavior or words that are the opposite of either love or respect.

 To me, there's no conflict or difference between "mother love" and "father love" because whole love is both, and the only thing that can ever damage or destroy whole love is that behavior which goes against the nature of normal, healthy, human beings regardless of how old they are.

We obviously can't expect young children to know a lot of the things that we know about life or right and wrong or love. Children are pretty young, however, when they are able to first understand what kind of behavior may, for example, hurt the "kitty" or the family dog. When they're only slightly older they're able to easily understand the idea that intentionally hurting someone else (with words or deeds) means that they are not "being a good friend" or that it "isn't nice" or "isn't acceptable". These concepts are the most fundamental concepts related to "being a person", caring about others, and treating those we love in ways that go along with that love.

When my children were old enough to have this type of conversation I did aim to make sure that they knew I'd always love them "no matter what". At the same time, and separate from discussing my love for them; I did make it a point to also talk about how, no matter how much someone loves someone else, sometimes the person who is loved intentionally hurts someone so often that it can erode even the most powerful kind of love. (And, by the way, they were of an age old enough to know the word, "erode"; because one way or another, younger children do (or should) get truly unconditional love (as pointed out above).

I realize that everything I've said here could appear to be one, big, display of how mothers tend to emphasize things like love, kindness, caring and relationships. Not all mothers (or fathers) are the same, of course; but with regard to my own approach to "unconditional-love versus love-with-a-few-expectations/limitations". All is not always as it appears, however, because describing only my approach to the matter of unconditional love is only that; and is not saying that I didn't address or emphasize things such as developing a sense of responsibility, teaching that consequences result from bad decisions or mistakes, setting goals and aims, trying to be the best one can be, or things like the simple reality that getting a good education, being free to live their own life when the time comes, and working toward a career and/or independence or financial independence.

I just made sure that matters not related to kind of love that is shared between two people (regardless of the relationship) were not connected to and/or equated with it.

A Discussion About Mothers and Love - Part III of III

My thinking and experience as a mother has always been that when teaching how to love and be loved (and when letting a child know that he is loved) is done right, a child is generally secure enough to just naturally seek out learning about a lot of those other things. Just to be safe, though, I always made it a point (from the time my children were little until they were grown) to try to teach all of those other things separately from what I tried to teach about love.

As I said before, I don't know how it feels to be a father and to love one's own child/children. I do know, however, that everything I've said above (and a lot of things I'll never say where my children may hear or see them, because hearing or seeing some things just isn't what's best for even some grown-up sons or daughters) are elements to how this mother (anyway) has loved, and continues to love, her children.

If that's how someone out there (or a lot of "someone’s out there") would choose to define "mother love" I have no problem with that. What I have a problem with (and maybe that's just my own ignorance - I don't know) is the idea that there's any other kind of love (like "father love") that would offer my children, or any other children who are loved in the way I've loved my own, different or more than what they've had by being so loved by me (except, of course, in the case of a child's having a father who loves him in the very same way).

I don’t know…. I just kind of wish that the labels used to define the different parts of the same thing (the kind of love that children need from parents) would be replaced with one label, “whole love”; because I can’t help but believe that if a child receives only a little or a lot of one kind of love from one parent, and only a little or a lot of another kind from the other parent; not only will that child not get whole love from either parent, but he may not have a whole relationship with them either. Dorothy Law Nolte wrote, “Children Learn What They Live”. Sons or daughters, if children don’t live with whole relationships they don’t “learn them” either.

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