Between a parent and a child, the common denominator is love. But is love a skill we have naturally? Do our parents instinctively know how to love us? Or were they taught? I think the answer is both. Love is a natural phenomenon. Every person is capable of loving something or someone. But just because we have the aptitude doesn’t mean we naturally possess the skill. I would say that love is a biological ability we have but a behavioural skill we acquire.
I’m not saying there’s a right or wrong way to love someone. Because we all have baggage, we do the best we can with the tools we’re given. What I’m saying is that there are certain tools that are less damaging in the maintenance of our emotional machinery. You might say my dad was given a hammer while my mother was given a screwdriver. 2 very different tools and, as it turns out, not all that compatible.
As children, we fail to see how we’re affected by our parents’ tinkering of our machinery. It’s only when we grow up and attain a certain amount of self-awareness that we start to see. And when we do, we may see that the unconditional love, the: ‘I do something nice for you to show you I care, expecting nothing in return’ kind of love, is really: ‘I put you in this world so you owe it to me to be how I want you to be’ or ‘I provide this for you expecting you to obey me in return’ or rather I nurture you as the extension of myself rather than the separate individual you actually are’.
The point is a child is a person of their own and deserves to be treated as such. A child doesn’t automatically owe their parents anything. What they give someone, their parents included, is what they choose to give. So, if you’d ask me what I would do differently as a parent, I’d say: it’s not that I’d love my children differently than my parents loved me. I’d show them how to love differently. When you ask people my age that question, I’d expect vastly different answers. I, myself, have trouble being specific. I know what I don’t want to do, but I also don’t know what I would want to do.
All I know is that the truest kind of love is unconditional. In any relationship, but especially between parents and their children. It’s not necessarily unconditional by nature because love is partly taught. Our parents set an example for us to follow. Even if that meant showing their children that love is something you have to earn. It doesn’t have to be a good example, it’s still going to be the one we instinctively follow. Although awareness and knowledge can break generational patterns, human beings are creatures of habit and what we know is what feels safe and comfortable. So, what we’ve been taught is what we’ll most likely stick to. That’s why I want to give my children something worth sticking to.