A few years ago we started a New Year’s Eve tradition of creating a time capsule in which we put our wishes for the upcoming year and throughout the year we add notes on all the things we would like to remember about that year. We also include a questionnaire to which only the kids give answers, like how old they are, their favourite food or the most important thing they learnt the previous year. There’s also one question there that asks what makes them happy and this year my older daughter said it was when people tell her “Great job!” That really got me thinking. What did I do to make my daughter dependent on praise? Why does she feel she needs to excel at things to deserve love and appreciation? What can I do now to help her realise she’s perfect just the way she is.
I remember a line from the Jesper Juul’s seminal book, Your Competent Child, where he reminds us of the way we felt when we first held our babies or when, in the first few weeks of their lives, we would be overcome with rapture merely by watching them sleep. We loved them then just for being. What has happened to our love since? Do we need other reasons to love them now that they are bigger, more demanding, more complex?
There was an interesting post I saw yesterday: Valentine heart attack. The idea is to leave a note to your kid each day, starting February 1st until Valentine’s Day, listing all the reasons why you love them. The messages suggested varied from a simple “We love you”, to “You’re kind” and “You’re a good friend”, all the way to “You rock at basketball”. And, again the same question popped into my head: do we really need reasons to love our kids? If our kids stopped being good at sports, or school, or failed as a friend, would we still love them? And if the answer is a resounding yes, then why do we need a list of reasons to love them? Shouldn’t there be only one reason: because they are?
Ever since I first became a parent, I’ve tried to do everything by the book to nurture my kids’ self-esteem: commend effort, not result; engage in a process art instead of crafts; do loads of experiments and keep them simple. But my daughter still craves praise. Although I don’t believe in New Year resolutions (or is it goals that are the new black this year? Or maybe intentions? I keep forgetting), our new time capsule made me realise I should work more on showing my appreciation of my children for no reason at all.
Because I don’t need reasons to love them. I just do. And it’s time it unmistakably shows.