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Home > True Stories > Article

Loving Kids

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 I expected.

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 another.

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 them.

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.

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