Who Enjoys My Company?

Written by NPN Guest on July 13th, 2012

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Consensual Living, Parenting Philosophies, Responding With Sensitivity
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Who enjoys their company? I do!

One night my three-year-old son asked to be excused from the dinner table not long after the meal had begun. He is generally permitted to leave the table when he has finished his meal, but not before the family has been able to spend some time together. I said that he could not yet be excused.

“We’d like you to stay with us at the table a little longer,” I said. “We enjoy your company.”

This statement delighted my son, and he soon made a game of it. “Who enjoys my company?” he’d ask whenever we were at the table, and he’d laugh when my husband and I raised our hands and said, “I do!”

Though I gladly played along, the game irritated me at first. Why did my son need to court our affection in this way?

At the time, however, my husband and I were making our way through a rough patch in our relationship with him. We had just welcomed a baby to our family, and as we adjusted to life as a family of four, everyone but the baby himself, it seemed, was having tantrums, none more than my older son. In my search for ways to connect with him, I was devouring my favorite parenting books — including Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn.

One evening while playing my son’s game, some words from Kohn’s book came to mind (emphasis mine):

We ought to love them, as my friend Deborah says, ‘for no good reason.’ Furthermore, what counts is not just that we believe we love them unconditionally, but that they feel loved in that way.

With these words, my irritation with my son’s game faded. In fact, I started to enjoy the game along with him.

A recurring theme in my classes at Teachers College was that what the teacher believes he or she has taught isn’t what matters; it’s what the students actually learn. Similarly — and Kohn makes this analogy, too — the love we hold for our children does not matter so much as the love they feel they have received from us.

Am I willing to play the goofball to get my son’s giggles going?

Am I willing to get down on the floor to enter his imagination in play with him?

Am I willing to squeeze over to make room for cuddling with him on the rocker while I nurse the baby?

Am I willing to pledge, night after night, that yes, I do enjoy his company?

Of course — yes, yes, yes, and yes!

After all, love has no limit; the more I give, the more there is to give and give and give….

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In what ways do you share your love for your children with them?

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Rachael is the work-at-home mother of a vivacious two-year-old boy. As a freelancer, she edits and writes educational materials for K–12 students and teaches online creative writing classes through The Writers Studio. She is also a poet who was foolish enough to have married an artist. Though Rachael never planned to do anything other than attachment parenting, her pre-motherhood self probably would be surprised to see her happily nursing a toddler — and in a family bed! She is grateful to have found an online community of others doing much the same. Rachael writes about making her way toward work-life balance in a family of artists at The Variegated Life.

3 Responses to Who Enjoys My Company?

  1. Melissa  

    I appreciate your emphasis on what our children receive from us, rather than simply what we offer them. We’ve been in a bit of a rough patch too, as we recover from a big move and at the end of a tough day, it can be so easy to dwell on behavior, and on who did what in response to whom. A more productive question, it seems, would be what we each received from one another. Did my child receive unconditional love from me today? Thanks for the beautiful message.

  2. Jennifer  

    I agree with Melissa, I’ve never thought of it this before. Looking back to my own childhood I can the deep relevance. Thank you for introducing Alfie Kohn’s book to me as well!

  3. Lauren  

    I love this. That was one of the parts of Kohn’s book that stopped me in my tracks. We often believe as parents that we’re loving unconditionally, because we rationally think that we are, but having our children receive that impression from us is a whole different ball of wax.

    I like your game, too. I can see how the repetition can be grating, but I do get it and am glad our children feel comfortable asking us, time after time, if and how much we love them. It’s one of Mikko’s favorite things to do recently as well — asking me if we loved him when he was a baby, if we thought he was cute, what we thought when he was born, etc. Maybe it’s a big-sib transitional thing, hey?

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