Monday, April 11, 2016

My birthday

I received personally written notes yesterday from my kids for my birthday. While they said somewhat typical things that a child might say to their parent, I’ve noticed something that comes up in almost all of their letters to me…

My lack of perfection.

This years notes included:

"Of course you have flaws, but what great person doesn’t?”

“Mothers are people, and they mess up. This isn’t always a bad thing, though. Your child may learn from your mistake, and so will you.”

I don’t know if other parents receive these type of sentiments or not in an otherwise kind letter?

No major blow ups have recently occurred that I need to apologize for. Nor am I one to complain out loud about my flaws since I’ve tried to be very intentional about my self talk, for both my and my kids sake. So I don’t experience their words as attempts of revenge or out of a need to reassure me, but simply stating observations. The truth.

Even still, when I first read them, there’s a grimace like reaction that occurs in my gut. What? I’m NOT the perfect mom? Worse yet, you don’t see me as the perfect mom? 


Nevertheless, as I reflect on the words they have shared with me over the years I realize that they are probably the best. gift. ever. 


A sign that maybe I have contributed to something pretty spectacular in their lives… the effects that should not be underestimated.

The groundwork for real love has been laid. Unconditionally.

Love that isn’t about perfection and pleasing and has no fear of shame. A love that is safe. A love that has eyes that can bare seeing it all, and remain present. This is their gift to me. I believe the fact that my kids don’t feel the need to sugar coat and please me by telling me I’m perfect communicates to me that they get this, at least on some level. And as best I can tell, they are not pretending or trying to send a passive aggressive message with the revelation that I’m not faultless. 

This is a big deal because over the years I have worked with and observed clients, coworkers, neighbors, family, friends  - and myself included, who did not grasp the possibility of this kind of love. Who could not, many still cannot, believe in it’s existence. I would suggest that a majority of us don’t, or at a minimum find it extremely difficult to live a life trusting it’s existence, consistently. It’s a foreign concept in our world of judgment and scarcity beliefs. For so many of us it’s hard work to love and to be loved. 

I have seen numerous people tie their value and worth to what they can or can’t produce. I’ve witnessed people continue patterns of unsafe relationships - because that’s what they know and believe they deserve, or who simply settle because of a failure to imagine the possibilities in creating a love and life that they want. I’ve seen many fill their inability to believe in their intrinsic value and worth by overworking, drug use, sex, pornography, vanity, shopping; or curling into a depression due to the fear of what they cannot do or overcome. For all of these different struggles, it's not been their experience that an unconditional love is possible, especially in the midst of their weaknesses or mistakes and they are tired of coming up empty. So they continue to hide and pretend because in many ways, it is so much easier, albeit painful. I believe that we cannot give from what we have not experienced ourselves. 

I see my kids letters as evidence that they may struggle a bit less with this. Maybe.


My best guess is they are able to observe the less than our best along with the good because I (and their dad) have had to apologize numerous times. They have an understanding for what grace looks like. I often say things like, “When I yelled at you for this, it was more about me and what I was believing and feeling at the time, than what you did. You did’t deserve to be shamed or screamed at. I want you to learn to do things because it’s the right thing to do and because you care about it. Not because you’re afraid of getting yelled at or guilted. It doesn’t mean that you’re in the clear, but please know that I wish that I had dealt with it differently. I am sorry.” 

Because of conversations like this, they know that being loved and making mistakes are tied together like constrictor knots. Love sometimes means having to say you’re sorry…
A LOT. we can keep the line of communication open and continue to look for win-wins for all involved. 

My kids will need to experience this kind of love from others as well, not just their parents; and I know the world will fail them many times. Nevertheless, we have set the groundwork for and encouraged their belief in the possibility of what healthy love can and should feel like, reassuring them to not give up until they find and create it for themselves. 

The more we experience a safe place to see and address our faults without judgment while experiencing respect and love, the more we can grow. The more we grow, the more grace we have for others and their mistakes and the more we are freed up to give and receive love because there is no fear of judgment. Perfect love casts out fear.

It’s counterintuitive for sure, but I am glad that my kids feel safe enough to acknowledge my lack of perfection and can love me still.  Not only for what it means for me, but for them as well.

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