‘Know the true meaning of unconditional love: An open letter to my children’
This piece was inspired by a tragic incident that took place recently involving a family I know. I won’t go in to it any further because it’s not my story to tell, but it has served as a poignant reminder that mental health knows no bounds. It takes prisoners of all ages and comes with an invisibility which can lead to it being unidentified for a long time.
Dear my Big Lad, and my Baby Girl,
You, my big lad, are growing up so fast. You will be fifteen in less than six months. I know you are smart (much smarter than I’ll ever be!) and I know you are switched on and might think you have it all figured out. I know you will think ‘I know this already’ but please read on, it’s important to your old mum.
And to you, my baby girl, you are at the very beginning of you long and exciting life. You don’t know much about life yet, and that’s Ok. Take your time. The world is a funny place, you will find your place in it, there’s no hurry. Your daddy and I will be here to help you find your way. But before all that, I need you to know this one thing, so listen up. I don’t expect everything to make sense to you right now as you are so small, but I promise one day soon it will all make perfect sense so read carefully.
I know that there will come a day when you will get fed up of the way I go on. I tell you I love you every time you leave the room, even if you are just going to the toilet and coming back in a few minutes. I sign off every text message with ‘I love you’ and hundreds of lines of kisses. I love to cuddle you at random times, like in the middle of a crammed shopping centres. I pretend to like the same TV as you so that we can sit and cuddle up and make our way through box sets together. I know that you know that but let’s not say it out loud. It would spoil the fun.
If I could physically wrap you both up in cotton wool and bubble wrap and never let you out of my sight, I would. I have had to work really hard to relax a little. I tell you for why; since the day you were born, you were and remain the most precious and treasured thing I have in my life. Both of you. You are my greatest achievement. You are my world, my life.
I know that the cotton wool and bubble wrap approach doesn’t go down very well. And I get that. You want to grow up, you want to do things your way, you want to be free. I continue to work hard at allowing you both that freedom. Big lad, you are growing up so fast that I know I have to ease off, I have to let go a little. I have to let go a lot. You will soon be making your way in the big wide world without me, so now more than ever, I need you to know the way I feel.
A mother’s love is something you can’t understand at your age. Since the day you were both placed in my arms, it has been my job to envelope you in love and keep you safe. It was and is the responsibility of your Daddy and I to raise you to be good people with kind hearts. That’s some job. That is some responsibility. But my goodness are you two making us proud.
Big lad, you will know that I tell you that you make me proud every single day. You will respond, as you always do, with ‘what have I done to make you proud today? I haven’t done anything special’, without knowing that you need do nothing ‘special’ as you put it, to make proud. You make me proud by just being you. I swell with pride every time I look at you.
There are moments, special moments, where I feel like my heart could literally burst with pride for you both. Sometimes it’s an overwhelming feeling. There are times I simply cannot believe that you came from me. You are both so beautiful. Together with your Daddy, I am unbelievably proud of who you are and what you have achieved in your life so far.
As much as I don’t want to even contemplate it, there will come a time (and it isn’t in the too distant future for you, big lad) where you have to fled the nest to be yourself, to work out who you are as an adult, to find your place and make your mark on the world. My heart plummets at the thought of you not being there when I wake up on a morning or not being able to give you a hug at some point in the day, but I know you are bound for incredible things and that excites me. I know that the both of you, whatever you grow up to do, will make the world a better place. The world is so much richer for having you both here and I can’t wait (well, I can wait but you know what I mean!) to see what you both achieve.
But as you are growing up – and beyond that, when you are adults – please remember one thing. I love you unconditionally. Big lad, I know that you will understand what the word ‘unconditional’ means but I want you to understand what it means in the context of a mother’s love. Because, that is unconditional on a whole new level.
There is nothing you could ever do that will change the love I feel for you. Please know that regardless of who you grow up to be, the company you keep, the things you do or don’t do, where you go or what you believe, I love you. Absolutely unconditionally.
I can’t promise to always agree with your opinion; I can’t promise to always approve of your decisions or your actions. But I can promise that we will love you regardless. We have raised you the only way we know how and I sincerely hope that the life you have had with us will give you a solid foundation upon which to build your own moral compass, your own belief system, your own way of living. But please know that if there should be a bump in the road and you make a mistake, know that you are loved unconditionally. Don’t ever be afraid to say ‘I’ve screwed up’. Don’t ever be deterred from returning home to us after you’ve made a mistake or you’ve done something that you know we wouldn’t approve of. We all do it at some point in our lives. Hell, I’ve made my own mistakes. I’ve made multiple mistakes. It’s all part and parcel of the tapestry of life.
Sometimes life goes pear shaped. We make a series of bad decisions and suddenly life has taken a turn for the worse. Don’t ever feel that it is too late to start over. It is never too late. Come to us and we will listen. We will not judge. We will put an arm around your shoulder and we will support you. We will help to rebuild your life and start again.
Likewise don’t ever feel like you have no where to go. Don’t ever believe that you can’t come home because we will be disappointed / disapprove / disagree – we will never turn you away and we will never feel those things. You always have a place with us. Always. So regardless of how old you are, your personal circumstances or what has gone on in your life, please understand that there is always a road that leads home. That road will never be closed off. This is our guarantee to you that we will always be here for you.
And if you EVER think that we would be better off without you, please know that there is no truth in that statement. Your mind is not thinking clearly and is not speaking any truth. Do not listen to it. There could never ever be a world where we would consider ourselves better off without you. So should you ever find yourself having these thoughts (and I pray that you don’t) remember this letter. Let your mind trigger a memory of what I have spoken about today. I love you. I always will. Forever. And unconditional.