Sweet child o’ mine
Now, I love my children. Never let that be in any doubt. But don’t we as parents/grandparents/godparents etc have those moments when we wonder where this screaming, tantrum yelling, or at the very least – moody person came from…
I have three girls aged 10, 12 and 14, so it’s an interesting time in my house, not to mention my propensity to be a bit of a diva sometimes. Honestly, my husband doesn’t just need a man cave, he needs a veritable bat cave – full of all the superhero armour required to get him through his next mission – surviving another day with his sanity intact!
Tweens and teenagers are mainly concerned with their own issues and whilst I am very lucky to have three very thoughtful daughters who to be fair, after the event, are very self-aware, life is not without it’s moments where things get a bit fraught, stroppy, moody and so forth. As parents and carers though, we all navigate our way through these times, taking the rough with the smooth because ultimately, we love them and know that it’s our nearest and dearest who we feel safe taking all our frustrations out on. However, it is also important that we tolerate only so much – that they understand we love ourselves too – too much to put up with too much…
Ages and stages
A recent contretemps led to a certain amount of thumb sucking and rocking in a dark room by myself, in order to calm down and to be response-able, rather than say something I might regret. Reflecting on the exchange, it led me to think about how love moves in cycles throughout our lives – both in terms of love for ourselves and for those around us.
For example, when we’re small children, our family are our universe yet perhaps conversely, we’re quite egocentric and only concern ourselves with what our needs are.
So too as teenagers. Depending on what type of person we are, generally we’re quite hedonistic – doing what we want to do but at the same time, ensuring our parents or carers are at arms-distance but there if we need them. We might act as though we don’t need them and indeed, will butt our heads against most of what they say because, well, just because, but we do want the boundaries there – because we then feel they care. As far as self-love is concerned, it’s complex in the teen years – all kinds of challenges with self-esteem and self-worth can occur and with so much physiologically going on, it’s a testing time. Perhaps we want to fit in, perhaps we are trying to create our own identity. To be fair, it can be hard to understand what we want.
In our twenties, we perhaps become more thoughtful about others but we’re still doing our own thing. We’re discovering ourselves as adults and choose friends whose values match our own; perhaps we’re busy seeing the world, forging a career, and maybe hoping to find a long-term partner.
The thirties are perhaps for many, the period of our lives where we know what we want – career-wise and in our personal lives. We’re still making new friends but also maintaining friendships made a decade or more ago. Maybe we become parents during this period of our life and therefore, our love is poured into another little being and love for ourselves appears to become secondary.
In our forties, as parents, our time and thoughts are substantially taken up with our children - their education, their hobbies and emotional welfare. Maybe we have ageing parents who need more care and attention. If our career is our focus, maybe we’ve established ourselves and are making great strides to the top of our chosen profession, working hard to prove ourselves. Experiences and adventure might also be something we enjoy – completing amazing challenges which ever push us out of our comfort zone. Our self-esteem and self-worth are hopefully a solid foundation and is reflected to us through how we feel we’re doing as parents, as employees/employers and as carers.
The fifties are perhaps about being solo – children fly the nest, retirement plans, changing tack completely and forging a new life maybe; perhaps more time for you, choosing new challenges and past-times.
As sexagenarians and septuagenarians, just when you think you’ve got it sussed – the good life – the grandchildren appear! The great thing is though, you can have fun with them and then give them back! None of the drama. If you’ve worked hard and have a well-planned retirement, there’s holidays to plan and friends to catch up with. The pace of life is very different, maybe still busy but you’ve hopefully less deadlines…
Love is all you need
As the decades roll-on, the way we view ourselves and the cycle of love for others changes. At the heart of it all though, has to be the kernel of love for yourself; if you have a solid foundation of a strong self-image and sense of self-worth, you will ensure you won’t tolerate disrespect from anyone – be it your partner, your children, parents, friends, colleagues or employers. If that foundation of love was not set as a child, and you recognise that perhaps you allow yourself to be taken for granted in life, it can only be up to you because our life will never be better than our self-image allows it to be. You will always fall short of achieving any goal you set for yourself because it will only meet the level of your self-worth – what you believe you are worthy of achieving. We are all inherently selfish as human beings and will only do what sits most comfortably with our values but if we have a poor self-image, it will always feel more emotionally comfortable to allow others to treat us poorly.
It’s about raising the bar so that as we move through life’s ages and stages, we can make those firm friends and find the life partner where there is mutual respect. Our children will undoubtedly take us for granted but when we love ourselves, there is an unwritten boundary that is not crossed and if it is, there are known consequences!
We have the opportunity to achieve so much in our lifetime, but we need to love ourselves and know that we are worthy of it. Once you are aware of how important loving yourself is, you can truly understand love for others. And you will have the cheerleaders to cheer you on when you value yourself and know you’re worthy of their love and support.
It’s such a valuable lesson for all because as Lucille Ball said: "I have an everyday religion that works for me. Love yourself first, and everything else falls into line."
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