Unconditional Love Is Necessary for Marriage and Parenting
I’ve been reading a lot of parenting books lately. Now that our baby girl, Cittie, is a full-fledged toddler, I’m often unsure of how to deal with her.
So many things about her are new to us, from her tendency to throw tantrums, to her rapidly broadening knowledge and skill set. So, I’ve turned to books in hopes of picking up some techniques that could help my husband and me handle our toddler’s behavior.
One book I’ve been reading is “Unconditional Parenting” by Alfie Kohn. I’m only a few chapters into the book, but I’ve already encountered a few eye-openers. I realized that I must shift my parenting perspective to the long term. I must be proactive in developing the traits I want to see in my child when she is grown. I don’t accomplish this by reacting to behaviors, but rather by striving to build a connection with Cittie based on genuine love.
In the first chapter, Kohn suggests that love is a right and not a privilege. Children should be loved no matter what.
Society often teaches us that good things are earned and not given, and unwittingly we apply this to our dealings with others. We praise our children based on their achievements in school. We say our spouses are good only when they meet certain criteria for a “model wife” or “model husband.” And just like that, our relationships have become conditional.
But this conditional approach to relationships has a big problem: It’s unsatisfying. According to Kohn, “One study found that people who see their relationships with their spouses in terms of exchange, taking care to get as much as they give, tend to have marriages that are less satisfying.”
As I reflect on my marriage with my husband, Jared, I realize that this is accurate. If I had applied certain criteria about what defines the “perfect husband” based on societal expectations, I wouldn’t have considered marrying him. And if I were to give him love in exchange for something he might give me, whether it’s money, gifts, or efforts I perceive, our marriage would fail.
As a person with disability, many of my husband’s efforts go unseen. Ever since Cittie was born, he has endured sleepless nights trying to get her to sleep. Despite his epilepsy, he has managed an erratic bedtime schedule for Cittie’s sake. Even when he is bedridden due to a bleed, he still cradles her in his arms and rocks her to sleep.
His efforts to maintain his health are a big deal. He often tells me that the workouts he does, and his effort to learn self-transfusion, are for us, his family.
When Jared is debilitated from bleeding episodes, I may need to take on part of his workload. Sometimes, having to work twice as hard makes me tired and grumpy. Yet he understands, and he loves me anyway.
His unconditional love makes me feel grateful for his presence and gives me hope that we will get through any hardship.
We must love unconditionally for our marriage and parenting efforts to succeed.
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