“Inside every child is an 'emotional tank' waiting to be filled
with love. When a child really feels loved, he will develop
normally but when the love tank is empty, the child will
misbehave. Much of the misbehavior of children is motivated
by the cravings of an empty 'love tank”
My children are completely different. Night and day. Black and white. It's unbelievable to me that they came from the same 2 people. They like different things. They laugh at different things. They are attracted to different friends. They are motivated in different ways. They express pain and happiness completely differently. They are just......different.
As surprised as I am am everyday by their differences......I STILL forget how uniquely they deal with things. I forget how individually they need me to love them.
Sweet Molly needs lot's of attention. She loves to be loved. She's such a little lover and has been since the day she was born. The only way to get her to go to sleep as a baby was to snuggle her face into my neck. Knocked her right out. She couldn't get enough snuggling. She's 9 and still loves it. She sits so close to me on the couch sometimes that I can't even move my arms. And, she needs to KNOW that she's loved. She needs to hear it often. She needs to know she's not annoying. She needs to know that I will protect her. She needs to hear me tell her WHY I love her, too. And what I love ABOUT her. She really does need it. And when she asks me if I love her......well.....that's when I know I haven't been giving it.
Lilly is opposite. She doesn't like physical touch all that often. She does occasionally give me the random hug or kiss. But, it's usually very quick and a little stiff. Then she's off to do whatever it is her creative little mind tells her to do.
Lilly's love language is 'time spent'. She needs to know that I simply want to be around her. She wants to be in the same room with me. It's fine if I'm on my computer and she's reading a book. It's not often that she actually wants to completely interact with me, although sometimes she does need that. But, usually, she just needs to be able to look up from her book (She's a book worm. Reads a 350 page chapter book in less than 2 days, this one) and see me smiling back at her. She smiles, happy to know that I'm still there and then goes back to her book. Or....she'll look up and very excitedly tell me the awesome part she just read and then (I have to feign interest, sometimes....especially during her dragon chapter books)......she's back to her reading. Just like that. All she needs to know is that I'm still there.
Whenever they start to act up or get sad or get cranky......the first thing I wonder is whether or not I've been filling up their 'love tanks'. Sometimes an empty tank is not the cause.......but very often it is. I'm a busy gal. I run a business, am a full time artist, practically a single mom during the week, etc. I take care of most everything during the week.......but fail miserably at times at loving my kids the way they individually need. Sigh........it's very agonizing to me, but true.
So.....the last few days I've been very intentional about loving them. Lilly had been in a great mood and Molly has been cranky. So I tried to give Molly lot's of hugs and attention. Worked a little but not the way I magically thought it would. And after school I made then a myriad of healthy (and, what I considered tasty) snacks. They nibbled on a few and ate chips instead. Then I offered to watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles with them (gag me). That made them a little happier. I gave lot's of hugs and kisses and listened to lot's of stories of dragons and ninjas and listened to more boy band songs than I could stomach. I forced my own cranky self to give as much love as I could in a way each child could understand. It didn't have the amazing results I wanted......but I kept it going anyway.
Bedtime. I go upstairs to get them all settle in. Oh...man. Their rooms looked like a bomb had gone off. Cranky mommy WAY overtook lovey dovey mommy and I lost it. I yelled. I accused. I threatened. Mommy love fell flat and I became a monster. And when I looked at them looking sheepishly and sadly at me.....I knew it was time to get away. So, I made a break for it. I even slammed the door on the way out. Oh. Boy.
I crumbled into the chair by my bed and started to tear up. I sucked today. And....I pretty much sucked yesterday. And...well....kind of the day before, too. I'm trying to show extreme love to my kids in the way they need it and all I could end the day with was a big, adult temper tantrum about too many squinkees all over the floor (they get between your toes. I hate them.)
But, then I pulled my hands away from my face and there stood my girls. They started apologizing. They said it was all their fault and I didn't do anything wrong by getting upset with them. That they had too many toys that they didn't deserve and perhaps it was time to do a 'purge'.
Who are these people??
Well, I didn't want to ruin anything with crazy questions so we gave hugs and I declared it was 'group sleeping night' and they could sleep in my bed (why did I do this?? I won't sleep a wink all night with Lilly's toenails scratching my ribs and Molly's elbows in my ear). So they jumped into bed and away we went. Molly gave me a note she wrote to me about being sorry and not wanting to see me sad then snuggled tightly into me to cheer me up (remember.....her love language is touch). The Lilly said, 'Mama, since you are cranky, I'm going to read a book to you to make you feel better'. Then she lay on the far edge of the bed and picked a lovely fairytale to read to me (remember, Lilly's love language is time spent). And I got snuggles and a bedtime story. And I felt better.
My kids loved me tonight the way they instinctually knew how. Oh, and I felt so loved. It was shocking that they weren't totally hollowed out by my temper tantrum upstairs but all I can attribute it to is my sad, but honest attempt to show them individual love these past few days. Forced.....sometimes. But honest......yes. Maybe......just maybe......despite my flawed ways and backslides and my silly temper.......maybe they still saw a glimpse of a Mom who loves them desperately but has a hard time showing it through all the craziness of this life. And perhaps their love tanks filled despite my imperfect love. Because they, in turn, had enough love left over to give some to me and fill my tank, too.
Not just my love tank, but my heart, too. I love these kids. Imperfectly. But, unconditionally, too.