by David Nicholson
© Garry - Fotolia.com All rights reserved.
I was wondering how other people experience loving their kids,
and being loved by them.
For me having kids has been a wonderful experience even though
there has been some pain on occasions. I'm trying to think back
to when my (ex)wife and I decided to have kids...I think for me
it was because I felt I had something to give, a feeling
I had a surplus, spare room in my life, a tender feeling that
I wanted to protect and nurture...that sort of thing. I now have
two girls and a boy, so I'm a little way through that journey.
I've experienced loving my kids as a feeling, quite powerful at
times, of wanting to, to be there for them...available.
From the very moment my first child was born I became aware of
two things about myself to do with patience and tenderness.
The tenderness is a feeling of strength allied with the softest
of touch, power with gentleness, a delicious warm feeling of being
physically close, on guard.
The patience has a timeless quality to it, it feels without limit...
like an endless capacity to wiggle a mobile, talk, listen, rebuild
block towers to have them knocked over or whatever, time and again.
With these feelings of being available comes a very pleasant sensation
of feeling soft and warm inside.
What I've enjoyed, in an intellectual domain, has been the pleasure
of figuring out what their needs were at any point in time, and
endeavouring to meet those needs as appropriate.
I've enjoyed recognising the underlying feelings and relating
to them on that basis. Sometimes I've got lost for a while but
never for long. I've made a lot of mistakes. And I've learnt a
lot in the process, about sharing how I feel, but not actually
being their friend but nevertheless to be real, to allow them
their feelings and give them space to express themselves. I spent
a lot of time nurturing them as individuals, to help them set
up healthy boundaries, to carve out space that was theirs and
then help them maintain those boundaries. And then to gently withdraw
a little once they had built up a head of steam.
From the earliest
age I had fun in working out how to allow them as much independence
as possible. I would set up their bedrooms as their own space,
where anyone had to ask to enter, with radios with the volume
control glued halfway,with pictures, colour schemes, animals they
chose, lights they could turn on and off safely themselves. Going
to bed was fun for them, they felt safe in their space over which
they had control. That sort of stuff. They were magic times which
seem to have gone in a flash.
The hard part about being a Dad... I had absolutely no idea about
this side of parenting or that it could be so painful! Simple
things. To say no when it needed to be said. To allow them to
be disappointed, rather than rescue them from that feeling, because
that's the way Life pans out sometimes. To be careful not to make
the world perfect for them, because real life's not like that,
its hard but it needs to be done.
I had a problem at first allowing my kids to be angry. I realised I had worked
it through a while back, when my eldest son's expensive camera
lens fell off onto a concrete floor and bounced four feet into the
air, he was furious at this, but I was pleased to find myself
gazing hard at the horizon in another direction to allow him some
time and space to feel that anger. He needed to, the lens had
been loose for a while and he'd been reminded about it before. I did feel
for him because I knew how hard he was going have to
work at his part-time job to buy a replacement.
Then there's the issue of personal responsibility, of holding
them to the agreements they have made. I was surprised how hard
some of this stuff is to follow through on, to let them make their
own mistakes, when you know they are going to hurt--ouch, this
stuff can be painful, but oh so essential. That's about the giving
part. The receiving part I've found quite different from what
For me the situation is also confused by the fact that about two
years ago I realised that the differences my partner and I had
when we married, which I had thought were maturational issues
that would diminish as we got older and grew up, were far more
fundamental. Leaving was an agonising decision to make, I felt
absolutely terrible about leaving them and miss them enormously.
Boy, it used to hurt saying goodbye on access weekends, I used
to have a lump in my throat the size of a football.
I now live four or five miles away. and don't always find it easy
to determine whether the kids relate to me a certain way because
of that move or for other reasons. The pain of not having them
around has become more of an ache.
When they were young I had a lot of immediate feedback about how
they were feeling. I mean when a child comes up and looks me in
the eye and says "I love you, Dad," gives me a big
hug and it looks like they are experiencing a warm fuzzy one,
I do too. Wow, that sure is a wonderful feeling.
Then at about age eight or nine things change as they start to
grow apart, they become a lot more independent, then through twelve
to fourteen I often wonder where those years leapt. I'd thought
that I would get more hugs and kisses from my thirteen year-old
daughter for example, but turns out that she doesn't want to even
be seen in the same street! Just two days ago though I got a phone
call that all parents must dread, to say that she was missing...turns
out that she disobeyed my ex and went with two friends to a party
she had been specifically forbidden to attend. However, when they
got to the party they were shocked to discover a dozen thirteen
year-olds either stoned or drunk, and one of their school friends
sitting on the road outside and refusing to budge. So my daughter
and her friends turned around and waited for an hour at a phone
box to get a taxi home, because they didn't want to relate to
that crowd of people the way they were acting.
Consequently she got home two hours late, but by then was assumed
to be missing. Well, I was mighty relieved to hear she had got
back safely. Although she has found out how to get grounded for
disobedience and telling a couple of outright lies in the process,
I'm pleased over the way she values herself and over her wise
choice to walk away.
But my son now has a warm smile for me and we
relate quite well, and even if he does have an annoying habit
of eating all the cream biscuits, he's a pretty decent sort of
bloke. I've gotten a bit more conscious about being a parent these
days, and like to check with them from time to time about are
they getting enough attention from me...yes...how do they feel
about themselves...pretty good Dad...would you like to go to the
cinema? ...yes, but you'd have to go in one entrance and we through
No kids these days want to be seen in public with their parents. I say that
with a smile. But all in all the stuff coming back is a little
thinner on the ground than I thought it would be and would have
liked. I'd like a few more kisses and hugs from any or all of
Guess I'll have to work on that one.
Funnily enough though, one of the biggest thrills of all I get
from my kids comes from an unexpected quarter. Its the small,
but unmistakable lurch my heart gives when they assert themselves
or when they disagree with something I've said. I just love that
feeling. its a feeling of joy that says...hey, these guys are
different from me, they are people in their own right,...they
are INDIVIDUALS! Perhaps that's what being a parent is all about,
it`s just the nicest feeling...and what more can anyone ask?
David Nicholson is Technical Services Co-Ordinator in a university psychology
department. He received his B.Sc(Psychology) from the University of Western Australia, but
has worked mainly as a software engineer in Real Time control systems and computer networks.
He is the non-custodial father of three kids who would like to see his kids leave
home able to boil an egg, tie a shoelace, write a letter, balance a cheque book, put out the garbage,
use a vacuum cleaner, live within budget and use a washing machine.
Copyright © 1996, 2008