Encourage the heart

Encourage the Heart

“You are my sunshine,
My only sunshine.
You make me happy
When skies are gray.
You’ll never know dear
How much I love you.
Please don’t take
My sunshine away.”

This song was a staple in our home. I must have sung it a million (okay, maybe a thousand) times when my kids were growing up. They were young. I suppose my intent was to remind them how much I adored them.

In hindsight, I don’t think I showed them the depth of my love enough. Don’t get me wrong: I told them I loved them. I held and hugged them. I even played with them occasionally.

At the time, I thought it was enough. Showing love and emotions is sometimes a struggle for me. I’ve grown and gotten better at it. But, when my children were little I hesitated to show my vulnerability.

I wished I would’ve lit up when they walked in the room, instead of asking them if they had washed their hands. I wished I would’ve done a better job of celebrating their uniqueness, instead of just their achievements. I wished I would’ve reminded them every day that they were perfect just because.

Siegel and Bryson better explain the kind of connection I wish I had shown.

“Connection requires more than just kind words or an acknowledgment of an emotion. The overall feel of the interaction needs to be full of warmth and affection for connection to occur. Our goal is for him to “feel felt” and experience that we “get” what he’s feeling. We want him to know that we’re there for him.” ~Daniel J. Siegel M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson Ph.D., The Whole-Brain Child Workbook

I know at the time I was often in survival mode, just trying to get dinner on the table and homework done. Thinking back, I also worried too much about the little things, what other people would think, and whether I was proving myself worthy as a parent.

Also, being kids they would sometimes frustrate me with interruptions of emotion over the ’smallest’ things. You know what I mean…perhaps I served the wrong pasta, maybe it was that their favorite shirt wasn’t clean, or maybe they were just tired and grumpy.

“It’s also crucial to keep in mind that no matter how nonsensical and frustrating our child’s feelings may seem to us, they are real and important to our child. It’s vital that we treat them as such in our response.” ~Daniel J. Siegel M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson Ph.D., The Whole-Brain Child

All those things got in the way of the most important message. Every day, every moment, my kids should’ve known my unending love and joy in their presence.

The good news is it’s never too late for a new beginning. I’m working on presence and connection with my now adult children. I don’t quite have the face-lighting-up thing down, but I at least smile before I speak.

Encouraging the heart is an art. Loving people for who they are isn’t easy, but it is worth more than sunshine and moonbeams.

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