Today, my 3 year old walked up to me and without prompting, gave me a big hug and said,
This is not an accident. Our kids have been brainwashed by our love for them.
Isn't that the greatest thing we can do for our kids? To make them feel so supremely loved they only know how to love in return? Their father and I have worked hard to create a unified front where there are boundaries for behavior, but never boundaries for our love for them. We have literally washed their little brains in love.
Our kids aren't perfect, and so it's never easy. And (apparently) I'm not perfect either, so I have to remember how to teach my kids that love and like aren't dependent on one another, and we aren't defined by any one emotion or decision, but how we work to control our behavior through the really hard emotions, because life has those too.
How to be a perfect Mom (aka how to brainwash your kids in love)
1) Tell you kids you love them. All the time. Tell them so much it becomes embarrassing. Tell them before they can talk. And when they are yelling at you because their life has become too much for them to contain inside of a quiet life.
2) Be specific and genuine. "You are the perfect NAME YOUR KID for me because I love how you go and do that hard thing, even when you don't want to."
3) Respect their boundaries for when and where they want affection, but also be willing to give it when it's needed. This is hard, especially when they are really small (say 3 and under) and don't always have words for their feelings, but they know they will feel better if mom hugs them but mom is in the middle of nursing the baby and doing the dishes. It's ok to ask them to wait a minute occasionally, that's YOUR boundary. I tend to side though, on the one of more hugs now and dishes later.
Look, don't roll your eyes just yet.
Anyone who knows me, knows I'm relatively sarcastic and my inner anxiety can manifest itself as a quick temper if its not kept in check. So I'm not all "Oh, I love my babies all the time no matter what forever and ever and ever..." I'm not saying "Love your kids all the time like a love-robot and life will be perfect." I'm saying if we choose love more often than not, and forgiveness when we don't, then life will FEEL perfect.
Choose the side of love
even in the face of daily routine or life irritants, or just flat out mistakes. We teach our kids how to deal with the big emotions by dealing with them ourselves. If that means taking a time-out for ourselves in our room, or counting down from 10, or a few deep breaths before we continue to speak in anger, taking time for ourselves, we are showing our kids HOW to deal with the big things. If we do this in an environment surrounded by love, we cannot go wrong.
And when you let the anger/frustration/overload get the better of you (and you will, my friend, you will), just use it as an example of how to ask for forgiveness. Even when they are little, before they understand what that means. Because then they will have the words for it when it comes time to fully process it. And because you have brainwashed them in love, they will forgive you, just as you have forgiven them.
So even though yesterday was a hard one for my kiddos and I, and even through I'm pretty sure they had goldfish crackers and grapes for breakfast, and even though I MADE THEM DO THEIR CHORES, today, I'm the Best Mom In The Whole World.