Have you ever vowed, “When I grow up, I’ll never say that to my kids!?” Only to find yourself saying exactly the same thing to your kids that your parents said to you? Yep, I’m blushing, too.
But I’m learning from my son about how to be a better parent.
When Zane started Kindergarten, I was in my second year of graduate school, working toward a master’s degree in Spiritual Psychology. At Zane’s school, they teach Multiple Intelligences in every grade. In Kindergarten, they call the different types of intelligences “smarts,” so kids can be number smart and music smart and people smart and self smart. There are about eight “official” kinds of “smarts.”
In September, I was walking past Zane’s room after I had put him to bed and I heard a noise in his room, so I stopped outside his door and listened to him talking to himself in the dark. He was counting by tens from 10 to 100. When he got to 100, he said to himself, all proud and pleased, “Wow. I’m number smart!”
A few months later, I was putting Zane to bed. We had already read a book and we were lying together in his “Go, Diego, Go!” toddler bed with the lights out, just hanging out together for a few minutes.
“Zane, are you still number smart?” I asked.
Immediately he answered, “Yes!”
“What other kinds of smart are you?”
He thought about it a moment and said, “I’m writing smart.”
“Yep,” I said.
“And I’m coloring smart.”
“Mmmmhmmm. Are you any other kind of smart?”
He thought for another moment and said, “I’m loving smart. That’s the first one I learned.”
I was silent for a moment, taking that one in. Then I asked, “Where did you learn that one?”
“From loving you,” was his immediate, nonchalant reply.
Wow. I was a little stunned. I loved this on so many levels. First, he knew he was “loving” smart. That’s awesome. I didn’t think I was loving smart, and I was an adult! Second, he learned it by doing it, through his experience of loving. I didn’t teach him how to do it. He just did it. Third, he learned it on his own. For free. As a kid. And here I was spending a lot of money as an adult to re-learn the same thing in graduate school! Finally, he learned it by loving me, his mom. What a beautiful and natural thing to do.
Then, part of me rebelled against the last realization. What had I done to deserve this pure, innocent love? I didn’t deserve this huge honor! It triggered feelings of unworthiness in me that were irrational. I didn’t want to interact with my son out of these feelings of unworthiness, so I knew that I needed to heal the underlying misunderstanding in my consciousness.
Zane loved me, but clearly I wasn’t loving myself, so I looked inside to see where I wasn’t loving myself. Growing up, I had (incorrectly) learned that love was conditional, that it had to be earned. When I didn’t get positive attention and approval, I misinterpreted that as not being loved. Because I was operating out of a misunderstanding that I had to earn love, I erroneously thought that I had to earn my son’s love and if I didn’t, I had done something wrong and didn’t deserve it.
Using my spiritual psychology tools, I forgave myself for judging myself as doing something wrong and not earning my son’s love. I forgave myself for buying into the misunderstanding that love is conditional. The truth is love is unconditional.
I had been loving myself conditionally and receiving love from others conditionally. But when I let go of my need to do something in order to deserve love, it somehow became easy to love myself just the way I am right now.
And then I was able to fully receive Zane’s love. I realized that my greatest gift to Zane is to love him unconditionally. Because when I do, all the rest of the details work themselves out.
With Zane as my guide, I’m becoming loving smart — and a better parent.