“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” ~Dr. Seuss
At first I was going to tie the idea of “Unconditional Love” to the “end of the world” (via the Mayan calendar) on Friday. But then Sandy Hook happened. And I realized that the end of the world had already happened for those families.
Is there anything they wish they could have changed about that last morning with their kids. Did they get mad because of a missing sock or spelling words that had gone unstudied. Did they wish they hadn’t nagged their child to hurry and up and get ready for the bus. Did they forget to give that last hug and kiss? These parents are probably looking back on that last morning and wishing they could just give a little more love. That’s all. The rest is unimportant.
So what’s the gift you should give your child (or spouse, parents, in-laws, co-workers) this year? The gift I’m thinking of wouldn’t cost you a dime. It’s UNCONDITIONAL LOVE! What is unconditional love? Unconditional Love is the greatest gift you can give your children or other loved ones this Christmas. It’s accepting a person, faults and accomplishments, no matter what they do. Pure and Simple.
If asked, I’m sure you’d say that you love your children and other family members unconditionally. That is, until they do something annoying or something you feel isn’t good for them.
What is conditional love? It’s love with conditions. It’s telling someone you love what you don’t like about them. Or it’s how you think they could live their life better. I see people giving conditional love everywhere, especially with children. I’ve done it myself. I’ve had it done to me. Remember when you were “good” as a child, you felt loved. If you were “bad”, that love disappeared. I can hear many parents say to themselves: “If only she had better grades. If only he were better at sports. If only she made more money. If only he kept a neater room.” If only, if only, if only. When a person is loved conditionally, he or she knows it. It gives a child or an adult a sense of unworthiness.
My great Aunt Erna gave me some advice to me before I got married: “to care more for happiness of the other person more than you care for yourself.” I thought to myself, “Now why can’t we care for ourselves and another person at the same time?” But over the years I’ve learned that when you really love someone, you do want more for them than for yourself. It’s Real Love. My mother always told me she’d love me no matter what I did. I remember one day asking her if she’d love me if I murdered someone. She said that she would. That conversation really stuck.
Unconditional love is understanding if the people we love make foolish mistakes or disappoint us, that we love them just as much anyway. This kind of love binds us together in ways we can’t imagine. It’s the love you want for yourself. And amazingly if you give that love, you often get the same love back.
Some people think that if you show unconditional love to your children that you’re not setting boundaries or limits anymore and that your children will walk right over you. Not so. Showing this love is simply a different way of talking. For instance, if your toddler is biting, you can say, “Biting is bad” not “You’re bad when you bite”. Or if your teenager is what you consider lazy, don’t say “You’re lazy!” but “I think you’d be much happier with a job and making money.” It’s all how you say it. This way will become a habit over time and you’ll notice a change with your children.
So here’s some advice for giving the gift of unconditional love, the gift that keeps giving all year-long!
1. Hold your tongue when you feel like criticizing, nagging or getting angry. Reevaluate if it’s worth mentioning and remember…it’s the behavior that’s bad not the child. Try to be unattached to the bad behavior and take the anger and emotion out.
2. Treasure your children (and the other people in your life). Don’t wait for a tragedy to realize how important they are in your life.
3. Another thing I like to do is find a picture of them as a baby or when they’re between 1-5 years old. I remember this perfect baby/child/person my child is. And I see that same person the next time I see them. You feel the same flow of unconditional love for your child that you did when he was a baby. And they feel your love come through.
4. Unconditional love does not spoil your child.
5. When I’m mad or disappointed in my children, I sometimes imagine that something has happened to them. This may sound gruesome but I imagine that they have cancer and their head has no hair or that they’re in a wheel chair. My eyes will always fill with tears. Then I’ll think about what I’m mad or worried about and decide it’s not so bad at all! That’s not so difficult to do since Sandy Hook happened.
6. Be excited for the plans your loved one is making. A friend mentioned to me that sometimes she has to “fake it til she makes it”. In other words be excited for whatever your child is into even or especially if you disapprove! Starting a band? Great! Building a tree house? Go for it! Making a life size T-Rex? How can I help?
7. Lastly, give the gift of unconditional love to strangers. Yes, strangers! When you open a door for someone or just pass by and smile, send out a thought of love. We’ve been doing it since Friday when the shooting at Sandy Hook happened. That’s the only good thing that comes out of a tragedy, the unconditional love and compassion that is sent into the lives of others. As Rachel Scott (the first victim of Columbine wrote in her journal before she died:
So this holiday season give the people you love unconditional love and even the people who don’t know. It’s the gift that will keep on giving for the rest of your family’s lives.
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