You either hate me already because I’d even ask such a thing, or you’re scared to click because you’ve felt it too. The evil whispers that something isn’t right, the emotions that don’t always come, the scared realization that maybe, after all you’ve given, you don’t actually love him.
Not really, not in the full sense of the word. Not in the tender ways a mother should love her son.
It scared the crap out of me, the first time I put words to those feelings. I didn’t want to own it, that question.
The problem was, it’d been rolling around in there for months. I could feel it. The depth and longevity of its existence. It wasn’t just something I could push aside. It had been lurking in my subconscious for a long, long time and it needed to be faced.
And so, I cried.
I cried because it felt so wrong and because I even had to ask.
The thing is, if you know me, you’ll realize how freakishly contradictory I sound. The very last thing I wrote about was how intentionally I love my children. I detailed how I gather all my genuine affection for them and tell them I love them.
You can read that here.
And I deliberately wrote that before telling you my fears that none of it was real because you need to know how purposeful I am. You need to know how many times I dig down deep to gather tenderness and love in order to reflect that in my face and my voice. You need to know how firmly I believe that children should be loved fully – not just in sacrificial action – but also in sweet, tender affection.
And you need to know how much work it is.
So, read about that here, and then finish reading this.
So, know you know.
Now you know how many thousands of tries on thousands of days I’ve gathered tenderness, in order to love authentically – to feel kindness – and I was spent. I was broken and weary and I wondered if that tenderness, that love, was ever really there to begin with.
And, as I asked, I came back empty.
Because that’s where I was – empty.
Did I really even love him?
The thing was, I had to answer yes. But only tentatively and only because love is a choice. Because love is an action.
So yes, I loved him. I had respect for him as a human being. I passionately wanted what was good for him. In that sense I loved him. I loved him by wanting his life to be safe and secure and wanting to be the source of that security. I even loved him in the sense that I desired warmth and beauty and care in his life.
They started to come faster then, all the ways in which I loved him through actions and deeds. All the ways in which I desired his good. So, YES, a resounding yes, a thousand yeses, in the most functional sense of the word I loved him. I was convinced of it. After all, I’d committed my life to him. I’d promised myself and him that we were in this no matter what. I’d sought his good at almost every turn weather I was the object of his wrath or not. Was I perfect at this? No, I’d lost it. I’d yelled and over-reacted. There were days I didn’t give 100% and days I took “mommy time outs”. Days I’d wanted to be anywhere but there in the middle of that mess and scarier than all, days I’d hated. But every single time, it always came back to, yes. Yes, I was willing to ask his forgiveness and get back up and love him
But the emotions? The sweet tenderness that only comes from genuinely seeing another person for who God made them to be – for the good design He placed in that person without all the warts and brokenness of sin.
That kind of love?
The love that longs to be with someone when you’re separated. The emotion that makes your heart rejoice when you see him. The giant “YES! That wells up in your being when you connect with the genuine person he is meant to be.
Did that part of love even exist? Or, had all those thousands of times I’d summoned up the emotions in order to look softly at him made me a fraud?
Was any of it real?
I didn’t know.
Until the day, when it was me and him against the world. Until, he was put in a vulnerable situation where the other adults in his life didn’t understand him and wouldn’t even try. Until I had to stand up for him, against the powers that be, and demand they listen, demand they try, demand they care.
And it all came gushing out. The tears, the tenderness, the sweet thoughts toward him.
Because this was a child that I loved and I wanted them to love him to.
That day, I saw that I did indeed love him. In every sense of the word I loved him. But it had taken until that moment to realize it. The moment when I saw what his life would be like in the hands of others who didn’t love him and I cried.
I cried at the way he’d been viewed.
I cried because I wanted him to be cherished, to be understood and he wasn’t.
I cried because I wanted him to be loved the way I loved him, and he wasn’t.
And that’s when I knew that I did indeed love him. In all the good and soft and precious ways. Not just the hard and long-suffering and practical ways but in all of the sweetness of softness ways too. It had been there all along.
It had just been masked, hidden – buried in the hard work of inviting him into vulnerability again… and again… and again. In seeing past the defiance to the heart of who he really was. And it’s that exhausting, emotion numbing work that had made me wonder if the fun side of love had even existed.
So, yes. I really did love my child.
Practical Steps to Finding Your Love Again
I’ve come to realize that there are ebbs and flows to the tender emotions we have toward our kids. There are times that I’ve given all I can give and I’m emotionally numb, or worse, angry. I need to be aware of this and realize that those times aren’t the full story. It’s just a thinning, a wearing out of my ability to access the love that fully and deeply exists – a love given by and sourced from God himself. And then, I need to do everything in my power not to stay there.
That’s the hard part. Because, for me, that means prayer and learning how to stop and take care of myself. As a foster mom, I KNOW how impossible this sounds. The idea of self-care is one I disdained for a long time. But, I’m slowly starting to accept it as not only not selfish, but a vital way I care for my children. Stopping to take care of myself fills me back up so that I have reserves to draw from and can better tap into that tender loving-kindness. I’ve got a list going of the things that work for me and the things I know I need to implement but haven’t figured out how to yet. I’d love to send it to you. It might help you get started on your own ways to fill back up so you can find your love again. Put your email below and click so I can get it to you right away. I’m also going to write more about self-care and why it’s not selfish. When I do, I’ll send that your way too. Hang in there Mama!