Unconditional Love

I have three children. A daughter and two sons.

They are the most important thing I have ever done.

To say I am proud of them, is an understatement.

I cherish them

I adore them.



They also drive me completely insane. They are difficult. Each in their own way.

They are a reflection of my parenting mistakes and my parenting perfections.

They mirror my best traits and my worst traits. Sometimes that’s hard to watch.

Look, there’s my kid, being a dick, the same way I am a dick. There’s my kid losing his/her temper the way I lose mine. There’s my kid doubting themselves, the way I doubt myself.

Dammit. That’s hard.

But also it’s a good lesson. I learn from them. It’s important and hard and good. All those things.

We do the best we can, we parents. We aren’t perfect. We have our faults, many learned from our own imperfect parents.

But I love my kids. A lot. So much.

That’s the most important part. Loving them.

But what does it mean to love your children? Where does the love end and does it ever end?

I think it’s hard, recognizing that our kids aren’t exactly what we imagined them to be.

I wanted a daughter who would wear pretty dresses and love dolls and have tea parties with me and do theatre with me and write stories and play make believe.

Instead I have a shy, athletic daughter who refused dresses by 18 months, thought dolls were scary, and doesn’t want anything to do with theatre.

But she’s mine. She’s my girl. She isn’t what I imagined her to be.

But she’s wonderful. I cannot imagine my life without her.  It would devastate me.

I know two people who have “disowned” their children.

1. refuse to acknowledge or maintain any connection with.
It’s very difficult for me to fathom this. I have three imperfect children. My oldest is 16. Perhaps there are things my children could do someday that would cause me to withdraw. It’s hard to imagine. I think I would love them through anything. Maybe if they became heroine addicts who repeatedly stole from me or were violent. Maybe if they become prostitutes or strippers?  I don’t know. Again, I can’t imagine. Yeah, I would be sad if those things happen but I think I would still be present.

I pride myself on being a non-judgmental person. But this I judge, this disowning of children. And I ask myself what is our obligation to these people we bring into the world? Are we obligated to love our children unconditionally? And what does it mean to love unconditionally?

One of the people I know who has turned away from his children did so because they hurt his feelings. Deeply. He had divorced their mom when they were young and moved to another state and remarried. His children struggled and their mom was angry and blamed him for the divorce, for her struggles, for destroying her life. He attempted to maintain his relationship with his sons. But she made it difficult and he didn’t fight hard. I know he didn’t. I was there. He had married my mom.

I love this man. He raised me. When I was teenager. And I was a very difficult teenager. I love him still.
When he and my mother divorced, he also maintained a relationship with me in a somewhat half-hearted way. He didn’t have to. We aren’t related by blood. But I didn’t let him go. That’s me. I hold onto people, I don’t let go of things that matter to me. Over the years, his relationship with his sons became increasingly strained. There was a visit gone wrong. A fight. Changed flights, nasty words.
And they have never spoken since. When grandparents passed away, there were a few stiff conversations. But no real attempt has been made to repair the relationship. He says he is done. They have hurt him too much. They say they are done. He was a bad father.
Done. Done with his children. He has three grandchildren he will never know. He has two successful, kind, interesting, fabulous grown sons with beautiful wives that he has no contact with.

I absolutely cannot understand it.

At all.

I know another person who was “disowned” by her family when she told them she was gay.
They are a religious family and believe that her “choice” to be gay is a sin. They will not condone her behavior.
Her gayness, in their eyes, is just another example of her dramatic, attention seeking behavior.
I am basically nonjudgmental. I do understand how they feel to a certain extent. I understand, given who they are, how they were raised, their deeply set values, how difficult it is to accept something so foreign as gayness. I have family who have really struggled with my sexuality. I empathize with that difficultly. My kids, particularly my daughter, have really struggled…still struggle.  I believe they will get better at dealing with it when they grow up. Until then, I keep it…my sexuality at a distance. But they are kids. Not grown ups. And they aren’t my parents.
I could go on a tirade about choosing to be gay and why anyone would choose to be rejected and hated and discriminated against.
Or whether Jesus actually had anything to say about gayness. Which he didn’t. Not one word.
I want to say, instead…
what the hell people?
What the hell?
Parenting is about unconditional love.
Isn’t it? About that?
Am I wrong here? Are my kids too young for me to understand how a parent could simply walk away from their child?
I believe in the above quote.
I don’t think parenting is easy. I think it’s the hardest job I have ever done.
And post divorce, post “gay” announcement, I can understand the depth of pain your children’s anger can cause you.
But walking away, giving up, rejecting your kids.
That is something I simply cannot understand.
I think you don’t get to do that.
I think when we have a child we are given a gift.
I think parenting requires unconditional love. Even when it hurts. Even when we disagree with our children.
We can say, “I disagree”.
But we don’t get to say, “goodbye”.
I watch this woman feel the pain of her parents rejection. I watch her think about the coming holidays, knowing she won’t be welcome with her family. Her favorite holiday is Christmas. At least it used to be.
She’s not perfect. She’s a fireball. A powerhouse. Complex.
I bet she wasn’t easy to parent. She will be the first to say so. She wasn’t like her siblings. She didn’t quite fit into her traditional, fundamentalist Christian family. And hiding her sexuality only made her life more difficult, it made her more difficult.
But she’s theirs. Their beautiful gift from God.
And I think it’s their job to love and accept her even if they don’t understand.
I think it’s a requirement for being a parent.
Am I wrong here?

6 thoughts on “Unconditional Love

    • I agree. My middle child brought me to the brink of coo coo for cocoa puffs last night. Talk about testing my unconditional love idealistic philosophy.

      But I think you still have to be present, as a parent. I don’t think you get to walk away. I don’t think you ever get to say, I am done.

      Thanks for the comment.

  1. I find this interesting because my fiancé, Sarah has also in a sense been deserted by members of her family in the name of religion. Her parents still speak to her but have said they only want to hear about (and I am not exaggerating when I say this) the weather, her books (she is an author) and her job. They don’t want to hear my name or anything about me. They won’t attend their daughter’s only wedding. They will likely not accept our children when they arrive. To me, that isn’t being a parent! Whittling your child down to a job and the small talk you’d find in an elevator is not being a parent. Sarah’s grandparents even wrote her an awful letter “out of love” that referred to me as a “predator” and explained that because they are such good Christians they “did not want to hear from her again until she turned from this sin”. Excuse me but the Bible does say that no sin is greater than another in the eyes of God. What makes any parent or grandparent better than the son or daughter? Interestingly enough, her brother is a deadbeat father and literally signed away his rights to 3 of his kids and yet to her her parents, he is still a golden child who can do no wrong. Now THAT is just ridiculous to me…

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