I have heard this quite often lately” Our children are mirrors to our souls”. I really think this is true…and it comes with an overwhelming responsibility at times. To realize that my connection with my children is so deep that they act out and challenge exactly what I need to work on within myself – that is a lot for me to consider.
Here is an example of the this:
I was recently listening to another mother (at my “conscience mother’s circle”–this circle means so much to me I will write a post about it one of these days) who thought there was something wrong with her son because he was very verbal for a 2-year-old but never told her that he loved her. I could completely relate.
My older son, L, was a very verbal toddler. He hasn’t stopped talking once he realized the power of words. He talks straight through his day…there is no quiet time when L is awake. He asks questions constantly and usually follows up on your response with another question or he corrects you, sings at the top of his lungs, role plays every event that has happened in his life, carries on one way conversations, all day every day. He loves words and so do we. I can’t count the times I find myself smiling or laughing during our discussions because of how much I enjoy watching him figure things out in his head and articulate them.
Still, hearing other mother’s telling their proud beautiful stories about how their little girl or boy can’t stop saying “I love you Mama” to them at bedtime, or while driving in the car, or when they wake up made me uneasy. I would hear them recount their story and smile happily thinking what a wonderful gift to receive from your little one, but inside my heart was breaking a little because I did not hear these words from my little boy. I began wondering if I would ever hear him say “I love you Mama”.
I knew that he had some sense of what love meant because he expressed love for his favorite stuffed animal friend that he sleeps with at night, his Dad, and his trash trucks and trash cans that he used to play with endlessly. In fact, there was a time when he told me that he didn’t love me and that he only loved his Dad. He would scream and growl at me yelling to leave him alone. He demanded his Dad at bedtime and when he hurt himself, refusing my love and affection. It seemed like he expressed every emotion for me with the exception of love.
Over time, I came to realize that he is overwhelmed when he feels the love I express for him to the point that all he can do is scream. I know this is why he can’t express love for me. He feels all of his emotions so deeply and powerfully that he isn’t comfortable with those feelings yet. I get it, I see it, I feel it.
But, my emotional mama heart still felt hurt. How do I hold back the one thing I am certain of…my love for him. It makes me cry just thinking about it. His reaction can be so harsh. It is like he is in pain when he feels my love. All I can do is give him the space his body is asking for.
This is why I am so humbled as a mother. Why I go to sleep at night emotionally spent, wondering to myself “why did I need this challenge?”, “why does my son refuse his mother’s love?”.
I didn’t dream about what being a mother would be like as a child or young adult like many women I’ve met. I just always knew I would be a mother. I knew I would make my son or daughter always feel better, because I would be there for them…really there. I knew, I would teach my children how to care, love, and be kind to nature and others. I knew it would be like nothing else I had ever done.
I was in no way expecting all this inner drama when I became a mother. To feel so many deep emotions good and bad. To constantly battle between giving enough love to my entire family and finding the precious time to fill up myself so I can give again and again.
This unexpected challenge to hold back my natural instincts and not express how much I love my son has made me question so many aspects of me. It has sent me on a journey that I will always be thankful for.
This unforeseen obstacle brought me to know myself again. It made me ask deep questions about myself and find the answers and it made me understand that I am responsible for my happiness. If I am not comfortable in my skin then how can I receive love like I want to? Love doesn’t work that way.
In hindsight, about a year ago I came to a real fork in the road. I could continue to live on eggshells around L, constantly get my feelings hurt by his harsh behavior and spiral into an unhappy person (I was really headed there). My other choice was (thanks to my mothering circle and supportive husband) to start questioning myself and find the root of why I needed to hear these words to feel validated as a mother.
I have always known I am a highly sensitive person, Countless people have described me this way over the years. I always interpreted this label as a criticism, where I take life too seriously. I never realized this meant something more and I never thought this might mean my son or daughter could potentially be this way too.
Encouraged by a friend I took this test and found that actually both L and I are highly sensitive people. After finally understanding that I feel certain aspects of my day in a different way than most others a lot of the harsh voices that were criticizing my life in my head went away. I started to have compassion on myself, I can’t help but feel more deeply and so of course I am struggling more than I expected with the steep learning curve of motherhood.
I quickly decided I needed some resources and to change aspects of my day so I wasn’t feeling so overwhelmed with L and C and all that comes with such strong boy energy. I needed to take care of myself and my emotions to take better care of my boys.
I have become an avid reader of Dr. Laura Markham’s weekly blog from Aha! Parenting. I have read her blog posts and weekly reminders for about a year and they are transforming our family. This post was one of the first that I read where I understood that I had a lot of work to do to mend my relationship with L.
I have also learned through her posts that L expresses his love for me in many ways, just not verbally. This was a wonderful discovery for me.
Soon after I started reading Dr. Laura Markham’s blog posts I noticed changes in L’s behavior and mine as well. I was more aware of how my voice sounded when I was speaking to him, how I was slamming doors and yelling more than sitting on the floor and being open to his emotions, how much I needed to fill myself up so I could give L what he really needed…truckloads of love.
In the past year our family has finally connected together. I feel happy being a mother. I understand what is the most important thing to give my boys, no matter what they express verbally…LOVE.
I even came to terms with the understanding that L might never say “I love you Mama”, and that was okay with me. I would show him love everyday and find ways to love myself so I didn’t need that reassurance from him.
And of course just when I connected all the dots it happened.
During this past week L actually told me “I love you Mama.” when I was kissing him good night and again for 5 nights in a row!
These four little, sweet, monumental, loving, happy words…I have been waiting to hear them for almost 5 years and I am so grateful for how much they mean to me and the journey I took to get here.
I know a large factor in this breakthrough was because of my husband. He has an incredible bond with L, they just get each other. My husband reminds L every night to kiss me good night, and for L’s whole life, he tells him stories about all the loving ways I take care of him at bedtime. My husband has taken an active role in sharing and teaching L that you can love more than one person/thing and that you can express your love in a variety of ways.
I am so grateful. My heart fills with emotion knowing that my family is now more than ever, growing and working together.