Have you ever loved somebody who didn't love you in return? Have you longed for their acceptance and their favor? Have you dogged their steps and made them out to be more than they are?
It's unrequited love. Love that is unreturned. The other person doesn't NOT love you, but they just don't love you in the way you need.
Children need their parent to love them in a way that is their and theirs alone. Not to love on the paretns terms, but to love on the child's terms. To see them as an individual who has needs, and fufill those needs. Some children need cuddling. Some need books and intellectual pursuits. Some just need time and contact.
Even if you love them immensely, but don't SHOW them in a way that is real to them, they won't feel it. It will create a vast void in them.
I was giving Lily lunch the other day. She was sitting at the table while I perused the mail. I looked up, corrected her for not chewing with her mouth open, and went back to the mail. When I glanced at her again, she had tears running down her face. Her hands were folded in her lap. She was sobbing quietly. I asked her what was wrong and she whispered "Mommy, I don't think you love me anymore."
My world stopped. It shattered like glass, and I lost my footing. I had created in my child a feeling of emptiness. Not on purpose, but through simply ignoring her needs. I saw her sitting there, heartbroken, but I also saw myself as a child, sitting and wishing for a love that I could feel.
I immediately held her, rocked her, and let her be a baby for a little while. I stroked her hair, rubbed her back, and let her simply soak up all of my love. And after, she was a different child. I realized just how much she NEEDED that, and how I have been giving her all of the wrong kind of attention- negative.
It's hard. I love my Lily with everything in me. But our relationship is a challenge sometimes. She is stubborn (like me). She is sassy (like me). She is prone to drama (like me). And so, through our similarities comes alot of angst. I find myself favoring Sam, God help me, because he is just...easier. God, that hurts to say. I don't want to play favorites. I don't. I love my Lily. I would die for her. She saved me from a lifetime of sadness.
And in all of this, there are circles. I cannot parent her and not think about how I was parented. And just when I think I have a handle on things, something happens with my father and the wound is opened again. I don't know how to heal this. And it effects all of my relationships- especially with Lily. I want her to know she is loved, but I don't want to spoil her. I want her to be secure but not clingy. I want her to be everything I wasn't...to bloom. To take the world on because she knows she has all the support she could ever need, not because she knows she in it alone and has to do for herself.
You put so much into somebody that you love, especially your children. And with this love, they blossom. They love you in return. Love you and challenge you and drive you crazy. But they love you.
But what about when this cycle is broken? When the love you give is simply tossed away or ignored? When the person you love disregards your efforts to love them? What then?
Where does the love go?
That's how I feel about my father. I have loved him my entire life. Loved with desperation to be loved in return the way I NEED. I have no doubt he loves me...but it has never been in a way that is real to me. There has never been any time invested. No effort to see me and love me like I need to be loved. And there's the problem. I LOVE HIM. I can't stop. And I don't know what to do with this love and care and anger and sadness. It just dissolves in his sickness and selfishness. So where does the love go? It hurts to cast it out and never reel it in. It hurts.
So he sits in the hospital. He is covered in sores. He is underweight. He is going through withdrawls. And still we have not spoken. Do I want to call him? Yes. But will we have the conversation I need to have? No.
So where can this love go?