How to love your child unconditionally (it’s not as obvious as it seems)
A few months ago, one of my friends wrote on our Whatsapp chat that her son had a hard time sitting still, and wasn’t interested in arts and crafts. One of the other mums noted that it wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be (anyone who has found specs of glitter weeks after cleaning it up can relate), and that she wished her child was as active and as outgoing as the other mum’s child.
It made me think. How would we have felt as children if we overheard our own mums having this conversation?
How would we feel if the person we loved most in the world criticised our interests or personality? If your partner for example told you to be more outgoing or more into running or pilates?
I have had so many clients who tried to get closer to their parents by being the person their parents wanted, even if it meant hiding who they really were.
One client was a highly successful medical professional that silently battled suicidal ideation because he felt he was living his parents dream rather than his own life. So many clients joined the Army primarily to make their parents proud, and felt at a loss about what they really wanted to do or even who they really were.
As a psychologist, I have noticed that few things make people feel more lonely or depressed than not feeling really known or accepted by the people that they love.
Dr Shefali Tsabary (worth the google if you don’t know her work) talks about loving the child in front of us rather than the fantasy we have. Similarly Janet Lansbury (one of my biggest influencers in parenting) suggests that we think as our children as whole people from birth, and that we derive pleasure from watching them become the person they already are rather than having to consciously shape and mould them.
Unconditional love is not straightforward, but putting aside our own ideas to let our children discover who it is they really are seems worth the effort.