Have you ever had a "love" contest with one of your children? In my family, it goes something like this:
Emma: Mama, I love you as big as the ocean!
Me: Well, I love you all the way to the moon ... and back!
Emma: I love you bigger than the sun!
Me: I love you as big as space!
Emma: I love you a million, billion, zillion, mega-marillion, hundred-fifty-million times!
Me: Wow, that's a lot of love!
And then we collapse into hugs in giggles.
I don't usually like to rush into the holidays (I even complained to the management of one of my favorite retail establishments when they put out Easter candy on Dec. 26), but this issue of the magazine does include February, and with Valentine's Day coming, I thought love would be an appropriate topic.
Is there anything sweeter and more pure than a child's love for a parent? Is there anything stronger than a parent's love for a child?
Sometimes I fear my daughter, who is nearly 6, loves me TOO much. Is that possible? I still experience heart pangs when I recall how much I loved my mother while growing up. My favorite place on earth was snuggling next to her in her bed on a lazy Saturday morning or school "snow day." Now, one of my favorite things to do is snuggle with my daughter in my bed on mornings I get to sleep in. (I used to lay with her in her bed before she fell asleep at night, but finally broke that habit about a year ago - mostly because of how much of my evening it ate up, especially if I ended up falling asleep, which was 75 percent of the time! She still begs to do it occasionally, but I never give in because if I do, I know it will become a battle every single night!)
Anyway, at this stage of Emma's life, I think it's probably still OK for her to be head over heels for me. Mothers are supposed to provide a sense of security, be a safe place for their children. She took me by surprise, though, when she asked me recently: "Mama, why do I love you so much?" I stumbled a reply that I didn't know, other than I have taken care of her since she was in my belly, love spending time with her and always try to do what's best for her.
Let's be clear, though: Emma doesn't always like me or my decisions, and I'm perfectly OK with that. She also, thank goodness, isn't clingy or unwilling to be separated from me. Having a mother who works full time, she has been accustomed to my absence during the day, and we are so fortunate to have had the best of caregivers for her (who's better than Grandma, when Mama and Daddy aren't around?)
The hardest part, is ensuring she knows I love her even when I don't like HER decisions, when she disobeys, lies or treats someone poorly. I have found the best way to do that is to remain calm when meting our her discipline. I don't always succeed at it, but when I do, and when the incident is over, I know she still feels secure and our love continues to swell ... as big as space.
- Betsy Bethel is editor of the Ohio Valley Parent Magazine. Her email address is email@example.com.