"You can tell the children who are really loved. It comes full circle."
I had a teacher's aide from my youngest child's class say this to me last week as I was helping with copier pool.
It comes full circle.
Most of us love our children immensely. I think what this aide was trying to tell me was simply that you could tell the children who were shown lots of love, given their parent's time, affection and attention regularly in healthy and loving and, yes, even disciplinary ways.
I am no expert. One thing my children taught me almost immediately upon their arrival was that I needed to become a far better person than I was and that doing the loving thing often contradicted my impulses, those that gave me temporary satisfaction but made me feel guilty afterward for ignoring the quiet voice of reason and restraint, like yelling at them, for instance.
But I firmly believe that you cannot spoil a child with love. With things, yes. With a lack of gratitude for those things, yes. But not with love.
And so I would tell every new mother I could not to worry about what anyone else tells her. Hold her baby as often as she likes. Kiss that baby's sweet-smelling head a thousand and one times. Go and gather her into your arms every time she cries and as soon as you can (and can handle it).
Yes, I realize sometimes we have to lock ourselves in our rooms for a few moments every now and again, sleep-deprived and emotionally drained as we can become. Or we have to put the baby down near us and rest our heads on our hands and wonder how we will muster through the next few hours or days. Or that we must leave them with their daddy, crying or not, in order to get things done or to take a mental health break or a shower. But we bounce back with support, bringing our little ones back to our bosom where they belong.
I had many well-meaning people tell me that they thought I let my children cling too much to me when they were babies and toddlers, that I spoiled my babies by going to them each time they cried, holding them too often, and that it wouldn't hurt them to learn to be alone.
But do any of us really want to learn to be alone? Isn't that why we have family at the beginning? Isn't that why several studies have shown the adverse effects on children who do not receive attention and are not held often or at all as infants?
Yes, I was exhausted and sometimes scared by the lack of sleep as a younger mother. Yes, I did chores and cooking with babies on my hips and slept in a recliner with a baby on my chest. Yes, I nursed children every hour or two for years, and through endless nights - sometimes because they needed comfort, not milk.
I don't regret it. It cost me a great deal of time and patience and strength and sleep, but the art of mothering is sacrifice, I believe.
What I do regret are the times when I let them cry as they were weaning, even with their papa near them. Or the battles over nap time that were less than loving. (Those I finally solved by returning to an old policy of rocking my youngster to sleep on me in that worn recliner.) I regret the times I didn't make the little or not so little sacrifices, like going to a movie and leaving my very attached toddler with grandparents he rarely saw and knowing later that he cried himself to sleep for nap time. Or weaning my little girl too early. Or not stopping nagging chores quickly to tend to my fussing babies sooner. Oh, I'll just finish loading this dishwasher; hold on, Sweetie! Wait, I just want to start this last load of laundry please!
But I comfort myself that I did indeed pour out my love more often than not.
Love is everything. True attention and loving human touch are everything, and a mother's is incredibly special. It pays amazing dividends with every person your child knows: teachers, coaches, peers, bosses, significant others and, someday, their own children.
It comes full circle.
That is always what love does.