Loving our kids no matter what gets thrown at us

This morning as I hugged my baby to me, she squeezed me and I reveled in the moment of closeness and connection, until I realized she had wiped her booger on my shirt.  I’m not sure there’s much in life that’s more humbling than realizing that to my child, one of my roles is to be her human tissue and wastebasket.

At first I felt offended and wondered if snot removal was all she thought I was good for.  And then I settled in to a deeper realization that motherhood is millions of acts of service, some enormous (like giving birth) and some small (like taking a slobbery apple core) but essentially, I will give of myself to the best of my ability for as long as my child needs me.  I also realized that I should enjoy this time when my child is small and needs me so much, because I know that one of the most challenging acts of service lies ahead–letting go.

So for now, I’ll try to enjoy being a human tissue and later I’ll do my best to be a wastebasket with a smile so that eventually when my child no longer needs me as fiercely, I’ll be able to let go with the fond memories of a time when she couldn’t even sit up or tie her shoes.

As I thought about it more I realized that I could be my child’s wastebasket in more than one way.  Sure, like every mother, I will have a plastic baggie full of garbage in my purse at all times.  But I can also be a receptacle for her emotional boogers and garbage too.

So, I made a commitment to her and to myself that I would be willing to hold space for her to feel whatever comes up, no matter how messy or uncomfortable it might seem.  I will listen to her cry and rage and spew venom, and I’ll do it gladly and with grace most of the time, I hope.

I’ve been watching the Showtime series Dexter, which is not recommended for the faint of heart.  It’s about a serial killer protagonist (I know, weird, huh?).  But the thing I’m enjoying the most about it right now is the moments during the series when Dexter feels seen by someone and not judged.

He describes a monster inside him, his dark passenger, but when someone accepts him fully, he doesn’t feel like such a monster.  I think that in a way we all feel like Dexter.  We each have things we don’t love about ourselves, dark secrets or past deeds we’re ashamed of.  But when we practice real unconditional love, we love and accept our children, and ourselves, even in the face of the “unacceptable”.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean that I won’t set clear and appropriate limits and have understood standards of behavior in my household.  It’s just that within my boundaries there will be space for my daughter’s darkness, hurt, anger, and upset, just as I will always have a place for her to drop off her already chewed gum if there isn’t another wastebasket around.

I’m committed to being the best, most loving human tissue and wastebasket I can be for my daughter, and I invite you to join me.  Together we can create a more beautiful world in which all of the parts of ourselves can be loved and celebrated, not just the pretty parts.

I would love to hear about your own experiences of holding space for your child’s big emotions.  Please leave me a comment below!

Have a wonderful week, Shelly

3 comments
Jayama Hayn
Jayama Hayn

Thank you, Shelly! Very beautiful! I hope that a lot of parents read this and get inspired to be of such unconditional service to their children and to become aware of how amazing the 'job' of being a parent is! And how much it really does add to how the world looks like. I personally find it very rewarding to be there as a mum and to embrace every aspect of my son... whatever it might be at the moment...a cry... some snot... a smile :)... and it is also something you never master, but always have to stay open and learn from those little wise beings. I love that! Thanks again!

Karyl Averill
Karyl Averill

I'd like to add that I frequently sit in stillness watching and loving my girls, knowing that in a few years, things will be different, and for better or worse, they will be accepted and cradled and loved. What a gift it is to live and be able to appreciate my kids from moment to moment. It's extended to friends' kids too. Seeing them with clarity and compassion is healing and self nurturing.

Karyl Averill
Karyl Averill

this was one of the more eloquent posts I've seen about parenting. I love the concept loving our service, thinking the present in our children is a gift, creating an unconditional, loving space for the dark as well as the light.. simply beautiful. THANK YOU.