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Category: Relationships / Topics: Family Love Parenting, Parents Relationships

A Parent's Love

by Ken Potts

Posted: September 22, 2019

It means emotional burdens, sacrifices…

Parents love their kids. That's the only excuse I can come up with for some of the things we do.

Let me tell you what I mean.

A number of years ago, I found myself, along with about 30 other parents, crammed into a small, hot, school library for an end of the year music recital. We sat on those cute little plastic chairs that are just right for kindergartners, but hold only about half of the average adult posterior.

The program listed 23 participants, each of whom would display their musical acumen on one of a number of stringed instruments. My daughter Amy was scheduled to be the 15th performer.

I like music. This was not music. I'm not saying the kids didn't do a good job. They had practiced hard all year and it was obvious they were proud of how much they'd learned.

But most of them were simply not at the point where all the sounds they were producing came together into anything consistently pleasant to hear.

As I watched the other parents there, however, I realized our appreciation of our children's efforts had nothing to do with the quality of the "music" they labored to provide. We sat patiently and attentively, we smiled, nodded our heads and applauded each performer -- not just our children, mind you, but everybody else, too.

Though some of us may have simply been delirious from the heat, most of us, I decided, were simply trying to be loving parents. Which started me thinking about what being a loving parent really means.

Most of us tend to think of love as an emotion -- something that is irrational, powerful and just happens to us. My trusty dictionary suggests that love is "a strong, intense affection for or attachment to another person ..."

That's a start, but I think a parent's love goes beyond being primarily a feeling. The love we offer in our relationships with our children is also a decision. We choose to love our children, and to act on this choice in ways that often seem detrimental to our own well-being.

Such a love encompasses a desire to encourage and enable our children to grow and to develop, to challenge us and, ultimately, to leave us. If we truly love our children, then we accept the struggle, the confusion and the pain that we as parents experience as part of this process.

Parental love also includes allowing ourselves to feel with our children the often painful emotions of growing up. As they experience disappointment, embarrassment, rejection, loss, we feel too, and often also find ourselves remembering some of these same feelings from our own childhood.

Yet a parent's love requires that we accept this emotional burden as well.

Both our decision to enable our children's growth and development, and willingness to share in their emotions as they do so, brings to mind a third dynamic of such love.

A recent TV ad features a young woman reminiscing about the time her father denied himself a needed new suit so that she could have a special prom dress. Such a sacrifice is, in fact, not all that unusual.

Parents do it all the time, usually without even thinking about it. Because we love, we regularly deny or delay the fulfilling of our own needs so that our children can have what we believe is important for their well-being.

In practical terms, all of this can come down to shelling out money for music lessons and then spending an hour sitting in a hot room on little chairs listening to an endless succession of screeching instruments -- and applauding every one.

Or, as my now adult daughter is setting out to do as I write this, take her own two squabbling children on a 30-hour train ride to Montana for a vacation.

I guess that's love.

Dr. Ken Potts is on the staff of SamaraCare Counseling Center in Naperville and Downers Grove, Illinois.

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Posted: September 22, 2019

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