I have heard it said that we give children too little credit, that they are more perceptive, more resilient, and more self-reliant than we think they are.
While I have at times sought refuge in this thought, I sometimes wonder -- as I do now -- if thinking that way serves my purpose as a parent more than it does my children's well-being. Do I, in my mother's heart, know that I have shortchanged them and need to resort to rationalizing to make me feel better, to make me feel less guilty?
I don't know if my own question is answerable by a simple yes or a simple no. Sometimes parenting can be so complicated.
And sometimes it can seem so simple.
I have to admit that I am mostly a gut-feel parent. While reading is one of my passions, I have read very little on parenting, relying mostly on my instincts and on their father's opinions on what is good for my children.
There is one gem of a poem though that I keep going back to over the years. It is "Children Learn What They Live" by Dorothy Law Nolte.
These lines are my favorite. To this mom, they are a home run.
"If a child lives with encouragement, he learns to be confident.
If a child lives with praise, he learns to be appreciative.
If a child lives with acceptance, he learns to love."
And put that way, how can being a parent be so complicated? Unless, in my mind made overly convoluted by expectations and in my heart toughened by a self-imposed cerebral existence, I have made it so.
You hold a wailing infant in your arms, and what does it want? Love. You hold still a pouting nine-year old and ask her made her so rude, and what does she really want? Love. You reason with a rebellious and distant teenager, and what does she really want? Love.
And that is what they will keep wanting -- and needing -- from you long after they have left your home. Love, in its most simple, pristine, and uncomplicated form.
Because love just loves.
But sometimes I forget.
Our Lady, Queen of Families, pray for us.