This morning I told my 2 year old that I loved her. Her response? "I know."
Besides being cheeky, it struck me how true that statement was. She does know that I love her. I do so many things to show her that I do. I hug & kiss her, wipe her nose & her butt. I feed her, tuck her into bed, sing her songs, laugh at her jokes. She's a lucky kid.
Then I began to wonder: how do I know that she loves me...
Now I understand that I didn't have kids in order to force them to love me. That wasn't the (general) idea. And likewise, I have no intention of forcing those words from her lips or of demanding (too many) hugs and kisses. It's not my job to coerce her in to loving and being kind to me. But it is my job not only to show her what love and kindness look like, but also to give her the opportunity to practice her own love and kindness.
I've been pondering how to do that and I've come up with an idea. I'm going to be a person and I'm going to ask for respect, kindness and love- just like I would in any other relationship.
Since my kids spend almost all of their waking hours with me currently, I am the person who they can most often practice their kindness on. So why not encourage them to do so?
This means that I have to pretty much demand kindness from them. Sounds pretty ridiculous and paradoxical. I think we all wish that our kids would be naturally kind, naturally giving, naturally thoughtful. Just think what a world we would live in if every kid always innately wanted to share! What would we do with all of that extra time we'd have when we didn't have to referee quarrels??
Back in reality, we know that sharing (among other polite activities) can be the bane of our parental existence! Snatching and pulling and tears and turns seem par for the course at any little kid get together. We can't make our kids give...while also having a cheerful heart. But just like any skill we'd like them to have, we can let them practice. So if we say, "Can you share your snack with your friend?" while allowing them to wantonly take from our plates, we are sending conflicting messages.
If we, as their parents, are some of the people who they love best, then we should most often be the happy recipients of their kindness- not just some other kids who they kind of know.
We should be the ones who are being shared with! We should get an extra hug and kiss just because! We should ask them to bring us something from another room so we don't have to get up! We should label kindness and care when we see them, and not just in relation to siblings or stuffed animals. We should talk to them about how they can think about Mom & Dad's feelings!
We are their models and if we allow our kids to yell at us, they'll want to yell at others. If they rudely demand things from us without reproach, they will do so with other folks. We want them to be polite to friends and family members, but what about us??!! We are more important than that great uncle you see twice a year (sorry Uncle George)! They shouldn't just be on their best behavior with strangers. We deserve some too!
They need to know we love them, with all the kindness we can muster, but let's not forget that all relationships are two-way streets. So let's ask our kids for a little kindness for ourselves.