When we love someone, truly LOVE, no strings are attached. It means we’ve decided what we ARE with someone. Not who THEY are, but who WE are. It means we will not withhold our self. We will not withdraw. We will not manipulate. We will not coerce. Instead, we are the steady. The giver. The rock. The constant. The invested. The sure-fire, I-will-love-you-no-matter-what, person. The biggest fan. The believer. The dreamer. The connector…
We are cemented by our dedication, not theirs.
As a parent, we fight for this kind of relationship, don’t we? We realize in the beginning we are “telling” a lot. It’s part of the natural exchange of guidance and teaching, age and protection. It’s natural for the growing up season, but we cannot STAY in tell-mode. Parent/child relationships survive telling in a season by design. But along the way, AT SOME POINT, children are grown. Along the way,
the parent begins asking and it should never end. (and vise versa).
In the best of relationships all parties are both asking and sharing.
We are the question ask-er, asking
“how do you feel most loved by me?”
“what makes you smile?”
“what do you love about that?”
“What is your passion?”
“How can I support you”?
Love propels us to become observers of the other. Love forces our hearts to silence as we ask ask, ask, ask, because we must know the heart of the other. Love listens.
Am I constantly asking? Or telling? Telling is a sure sign of the conditional/contractual relationship, where there’s no honest exchange, where it’s more about me. It’s characterized by one sided conversations that eventually cease altogether because no one feels drawn in and invited to a relationship of telling. But asking? Yes, so much happens when we invest in asking.
If we want to love our adult children well…
we must learn to ask…and then listen. The answers aren’t the focus. I repeat: THE ANSWERS AREN’T THE FOCUS. THEY ARE THE FOCUS. We don’t ask and listen for the sake of redirecting, instructing, or setting them “straight”. We ask because love asks and listens. We acknowledge that children grow up. They become adults. They have minds. They are smart. They can teach us, just as we have taught them. They can enlarge us. There’s a mutual exchange and opportunity in the journey between us. It’s not one-sided! The shift is vital. IMO. Of course I also want my children to know me, to ask me, to engage with me, but how does this healthy shift happen? I think as parents, we go first. We make the shift when we start to ask. We love them first. It’s only natural. We model that love is always invested. 🙂
It’s true that the risk of loving is monumental and earth-shattering in it’s possibility. We could be crushed, destroyed, rejected, disappointed and lonely. The force of love is both beautiful and volatile. Yet somewhere along the way we realize that loving (our child) is not just a gift to give, but really a gift to receive. It is most fulfilling. We’re designed for this.
“I love you unconditionally” is not just a ‘category’ of love. Is there really any other kind? When it’s conditional, it’s not really love, is it?