Shower the people you love with love. Show them the way that you feel.
I wrote these James Taylor lyrics in one of my pensive teen journals. It made sense. If you feel it, express it. Share the love.
A close friend and I sat huddled over cups of tea at the market this morning, while Elka was occupied with a baby cino. We talked about love. Her words were:
If you can think of nothing else to do with your life, love someone and be loved.
My friend and I shared a common experience growing up. Although we both knew that we were loved by our families, in theory, neither of us could remember a time we were showered in love. Told we were beautiful. Made to feel fabulous. Perhaps our families were limited by the lack of affection and love they experienced as children. Maybe affection was tapped because of a cultural belief that showering a child in love makes a child full of him or herself. If you shower in love, your child might love themselves too much, and that would not be good by any acceptable Australian standard.
In my family, affection is hard to come by. We aren’t the lovey-dovey types. We express love in gruff tones and in symbolic actions, like turning up for Christmas dinner, or huddling around the flat screen TV watching the rugby. Pass the nuts. We all know this is love. But no-one will ever say it.
And it runs down the generations. My grandma, a matriarch and a passionate chatter-box, loved all her children and grandchildren greatly. We knew, because she cried every time we sent her a letter or won an award, and she wrote I love you so very much in giant cursive in our birthday cards. But she couldn’t help making dismissive remarks, designed to keep the lid on self-esteem. A few years ago, I painted a self-portrait, one I was particularly proud of and gave it to her, thinking that she would love it, just because I painted it. She barely acknowledged it, except to say it didn’t much look like me. A few weeks later, I saw it at my mother’s house, on top of the piano. My grandma has quietly palmed it off.
Although I am naturally inclined towards being affectionate and loving, I still struggle at times with my genetic slash conditioned programming. For instance, when I first met my husband, I told him he wasn’t a great singer and he was nice looking, but not drop dead gorgeous – fictions he had somehow gone thirty years believing. Thankfully, he had thirty years prior to meeting me to build a self-esteem of iron and steel, which was reinforced continuously by people around him.
I feel that, at last, with my daughter, the cycle is broken. She is endlessly loving. Affectionate. She looks at us with certainty in her big brown eyes. She knows we love her. We say it a million times a day. And she says it back. Mama, I love you soooo much. I am not worried about her self-esteem being inflated. All I want is for her to know that she is loved. That she is utterly loveable. And for this to be the platform from which she explores her own life, finds her own personality and makes her own choices.
Isn’t this every parent’s dream? To nourish little hearts with love, tenderness and sunshine?
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