I believe in the sanctity of life, that children are a gift from God, and that children should be loved unconditionally. I hope my teenage children know these things, although they are busy with their teenage lives and sometimes I am merely cook, banker and taxi driver to them. Frequently we spend quality time together at the dinner table and in the car where we have discussions about every day things both basic and profound. Their father and I have had a few “trust” incidents that have required discipline, however I always come back to the reason for discipline is that it’s because I love them and that why we enforce the rules. But I seem to stumble on that unconditional love part. Do they feel I will love them no matter how disappointed they make me?
I was born to Catholic parents in the 1960’s when artificial birth control was not an option. My sister was born 14 months after my parents were married. I followed 17 months later. My brother came 15 months after me. My mom tells the story of laying her head on the kitchen table crying when she found out she was pregnant with my brother. Could I blame her? She had a two year old, a seven month old, and another on the way. Two more sisters followed and we soon were a family of seven. We were like many large families at my Catholic elementary school. I however, did not feel like we were one big happy family. My mother, not an especially demonstrative woman, did not appear content as a mother of five children. There didn’t seem to be enough time in the day, enough hands to fold laundry, enough money in the checking account. We were an inconvenience in many ways and were reminded frequently of her sacrifice. As we grew her unhappiness grew and she vocalized her displeasure with our choices until she found a profession outside the home and occasional therapy. As adult children she remains critical of our choices and burdened when predicaments arise in our lives. I ask myself, can I be a different kind of mother to my children?
I hope that I am different every day when I wake my children up for school and tell them to have a nice day as we walk out the door. I hope I am different when I tell them I love them and have done so, sincerely, thousands of times since they were born. I hope I am different when we are silly together yet serious too when we discuss the difficulties of being teenagers and saying no to alcohol, drugs, and other moral dilemmas. I believe life is valuable and each day with my children is precious. I believe that whatever comes our way; I can look my children in the eyes or fold them into my arms and they will truly know my love for them is unending.
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