Sunday, January 28, 2007

Conditions of love

The issue of the give and take of love gets a pretty good treatment in States of Grace. Elder Farrell's dad says he'd rather his son come home in a coffin than come home dishonored. And, admirably, Dutcher doesn't flake out with a pat reconciliation at the end--the dad stays distant and Elder Farrell stays tormented to an extent. What kind of love is that? What kind of love wants the best for a person, thus sets up expectations of behavior, and failing those expectations withdraws completely?

Holly's parents struggle with the same thing. They love their daughter, it seems, enough to send her to L.A. first class with all their support and hope for the best as an actress. But when things go south and she makes some poor decisions out of desperation, they withdraw not only their approval, but even the most basic of personal contact. Do they see that in some strange way as being loving to their daughter?

I can understand the importance of emphasizing your moral viewpoint to your children. I can understand the temptation to give ultimatums. But sending the message that mistakes are irrevocable is anti-Christ.

I'll never turn my son out, regardless of the decisions he makes, unless he becomes a threat to the safety and well being of others for whom I have responsibility. So, the trick now is, how do I make it absolutely clear that he always has my love and support without dampening the high expectations of behavior I have for him as well? I dunno. It doesn't even seem that tricky to me at the moment. Why then do people put conditions on their love?


Anonymous said...

when my son was in his early teens we got into one of those battles where i kept escalating the punishment [you can't have that... you can't do that... each time higher] while he remained stubborn. when i got to the 'you can't play soccer this season' i realized, whoa, the punishment has to fit the crime. his stubbornness along with the original issue [which i can't remember even though i have a clear visual memory of where we were standing when this took place] certainly didn't warrant taking away his beloved soccer. parenthood is not about proving who's the boss. ten years later we get along fine, though he still doesn't forgive me for buying mac's instead of pc's.

Master Fob said...

I think that so long as you are raising your child within a strong religious tradition, the difficult thing is not making sure he knows what is expected of him, but making sure he knows you love him no matter what, so it's probably best to err toward the latter.

Scot said...

A Mac, santorio? And child protective services didn’t get involved?

I’m not sure it’s too relevant but this post brought up a couple memories in me. A ‘short’ one:

One night I remember telling B, as we always do, “Goodnight, bub, I love you” and he said back “I love you too Papa.” It hit me uniquely then; I realized how much we say those words and I wanted to know how he understands them. What does he think we’re saying when we say that? Love, after all, can seem to be an intricate topic.

I went back in and gave him a hug, and went into roundabout questioning on the meanings of various words, as we sometimes do at night, aiming eventually to get to “Love”. I finally asked, “What does love mean?” B answered “Love, it means love; umm, it means you’re nice... it means thank you.”

Love means thank you. Every night, every time I told them I loved them I was saying “Thank You.” Choked up and thinking of the long path to having them and my gratitude, I told him yes, I guess it does mean thank you.

Certainly a more nuanced view of love, and different sorts of love will come to his little mind. I don’t think I near fully understood my parent’s love until we had our boys. But I always knew it was without condition; they love me because that’s simply what they do, and I hope our two know that. It does, in part, mean thank you, a big thank you, but not for anything done besides being.

Kim Mack said...

I have three teenagers, and I still love them. ;) They have a step mom who offers great contrast to parenting styles, and I really am grateful. When they do something "wrong" she will often tell them they're not part of her life. On the other hand, I will say, "Seems like we're having a problem. How can I help you?" I hope they get it.

But Scot brings up a good point. I am going to ask them what "love" means to them ... what do they really hear when I say it?


Chris said...

Oh Scot. I had no idea you were a PC guy. I'm going to have to rethink the whole friendship thing.

Scot said...

Typical bigoted Mac user, trying to coerce other into the self-destructive self-indulgent mac lifestyle.

Look Chis, I’m a PCophil. I knew I was at the age of 10, and that’s not going to change. And if you can’t accept me the way I am, well [sob] maybe it’s better you found out sooner rather than later.

I’ve got to go; there’s something in my eye.

Mormon Enigma said...

As a father, it is beyond my ability to comprehend how a parent can disown a child regardless of what they've done. My oldest son is no longer active in the church and is living with his girlfriend (fortunately, they are getting married in a couple of months). But, we still love him and his girlfriend. We have them over for dinner at least once per week. Tonight we will be babysitting her twin 5 month old babies to give them some time alone. Yet, I had a member tell me that by loving him, we are enabling his behavior. I didn't say anything, but I sure thought some un-christian things about this member.