Dear Me: So What is Parental Love?

“The kids who turned out great knew they were loved.” – Aunt Louise

Dear Me,

What does it mean to love your child?  Well, Let’s look at what this kind of love – the kind that helps a kid turn out great – is not before we dive into what it is.

Jane Austin once posed from *Sense and Sensibility’s Marianne, “Is love a fancy or a feeling…or a Ferris?”   In this case, as well as in the type of love that exists between a man and a woman (which I confess is what she was actually referencing), I would have to say neither.  As I said in our last letter, just about every parent has a warm fuzzy feeling for their child – even the nasty ones.  So it must be more than that.  And love cannot be a transient fancy or none of us would love our child after that first diaper when the poo- poo tragically turns into crap.  So love that contributes to a great kid cannot be a fancy or a feeling.

Speaking of Jane Austin, if you were to ask me how I feel about her, I would say, “Jane Austin?  I just love her!” but I have never actually met the woman and we historically know very little about her, so what do I mean by that? I mean that I admire her work.  Well, obviously this isn’t the type of love that could contribute to the making of a successful child, because you won’t admire the kids’ work until about high school when they overcome generations of your gene pool to get high marks in Algebra.  Until then, their “work” (finger painting the couch, taking a bite out of each cooling Christmas cookie, giving the dog a bath with the kitchen sink sprayer) just creates more work for you!  So this is not the kind of love we need to be an effective parent.

You love chocolate peanut butter ice cream, chick flicks, that year Troy remembered your birthday, but this is because they give you pleasure.  Yes, the children very often are great sources of pleasure, but if this is love than it sure is a selfish thing!  I know parents who have raised their children this way – where the only way the child receives love is through pleasing their parent.  It’s heartbreaking to watch.  Eventually, after years of therapy, the child concludes that they weren’t really loved at all.  So, affective love is not that which gives the parent pleasure.

Nope, sorry to say, love is not any of these things.  Love – real love that impacts your children for the good (also husbands and friend by the way) is something you practice- something you do; and the best instructions for the kind of love that will really nourish a child are found in the Bible – 1Corinthians 13:4 – 7 to be exact.  You usually hear this one at weddings, but I think it works well with pretty much every relationship.  It goes like this:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.”

I realize this may feel overwhelming.  According to the Bible love is a lot of things you have to practice, so let’s start unpacking each one of them and see how they apply neatly to parental love.

Love, Older Wiser You

*Ok, I geeked out there a bit.  You didn’t need to know the book title or character name…or even the Ferris part.  I was shamelessly showing off how much you will eventually know about Jan Austin books.  Pathetic, really.

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