Every Friday for the last 10 years, my children count on “Mommy Can-do Day”. They receive a special drink of their choice, simply to celebrate who they are. This is one consistent and tangible “stamp” the boys receive to mark the fact that Mom loves and celebrates them-no matter what.
When my children attended a private school in their elementary years, each classroom held a “Dr. Can-do” jar. Whenever a student behaved with great character, a great choice, or hard work, they received the positive reinforcement of getting a Dr. Can-do treat. While I support positive reinforcements in child-rearing, I want my children to know beyond any doubt, that Dad and Mom love them no matter what they do. Whether they tantrum all week as young ones, carry on with a stubborn attitude in their tweens, or don’t finish their chores this week; they are still the recipients of our unconditional love. So, Mommy Can-do Day was born.
Unconditional love is a tough concept to receive at any age. Does love have conditions? There is something innately within us that feels like we need to earn someone’s love and approval. Many of us ultimately connect this belief to God; thinking when we do good things and act a certain religious way, we will gain the approval and favor of God. After all, if my parents don’t accept me and I disappoint my teachers, then certainly God is pretty disgusted with me.
This train of thought opposes the truth of the Scriptures, which state God loves us simply because He IS love. Our acts of righteousness or works do not earn us passage into eternal life with Him. It is by His own character of loving kindness, grace and mercy toward us that we are loved. We are simply to receive Him by faith (see Ephesians 2:8-9 and Titus 3:4-7).
Jesus is my example of this kind of love. As a parent, I have the power to influence the foundation which my children are able to receive it. Unconditional love is the foundation which a child is able to accept him or herself in all of their uniqueness. When a child is loved unconditionally, we promote an environment of forgiveness and grace. A parents unconditional love provides a safe place for a child of any age to relax, unload, take healthy risks and discover new aspects of life.
Recently, I handed the chocolate milkshake with whipped cream and a cherry on top to my junior high son sitting in the back seat of the van. I asked him, “Do you know why you are still getting this Mommy Can-do?”
He answered, “Because I have been working hard all week”.
No matter how many years he has received a Mommy Can-Do each and every Friday; his first response was to resort to “earning” the milkshake. I responded, “Son, this is to remind you that it doesn’t matter whether you worked hard this week or not. I love you. I love who you are. Nothing you do or don’t do will ever change that.”
His response was a good reminder to me. No matter how intentional I am in my parenting; my children have different personalities, different love-languages, and different ways of interpreting my actions. I can’t assume what I am doing or saying is received in the manner intended. I need to evaluate if my actions and responses to them throughout the week are covered in love and grace.
Perhaps the Friday treats have become more of a reminder to me of my unconditional love. I must verbally repeat throughout the week, in the manner which each child can hear; that Mom and Dad love and celebrate them for who they are–plain and simple.
“The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.” Thomas Merton
How do you express unconditional love to your children? How will you know if they are receiving it?