Valentine’s Day is such a sweet time in our home. I have a wonderful husband who shows me every day that he loves me. Our children see their dad respecting me and loving me and they are still of the age that not a day goes by without hugs and kisses from each of them, so I realize I am a pretty lucky lady. However, Valentine’s Day is a little extra special as we take time to intentionally love one another.
There are seven of us, so that’s a lot of intention. It got me thinking last week. I’ve always thought I was pretty good at unconditional love. After all, we’ve been happily married for nearly 17 years now and have been parents for nearly 15. Sadly, a quick look at society and I’ve come to realize, that marriage and parenthood do not guarantee an attitude of unconditional love.
As I was mulling this over in my mind, our Ben snuggled up to me, I looked around the room to see my husband in his chair with our youngest, and our oldest three scattered about the floor as we relaxed together as a family. This little guy has brought unconditional love to a new standard.
As he works to overcome the challenges autism brings him, he sometimes gets frustrated. His sensory system gets overloaded and he simply cannot process all that is going on in his body. The result is varied.
Sometimes there are tears, sometimes just yelling, and sometimes, whoever is nearest needs to take cover. And yet, there is nothing but love between these kids. And I have to admit, I have been changed.
I used to be a grudge holder. I didn’t think I was and I would have fought you if you called me on it, but I was. Especially with those I love most. It seems we are hardest on the ones we hold dearest, perhaps because they are our safety zone. We can be real and know they will love us, even at our worst. But that evening, looking around our living room, it all came into focus for me.
Our little Ben, despite his challenges, has given us so much, changed us so much, and made us better people. We have learned that sometimes getting hurt doesn’t mean we need to hurt back and that getting hurt doesn’t mean anything more than the fact that we are the trusted ones. These are lessons that I could have told my older kids about, but my words would have never taught them the way loving their brother has.
And I have learned more clearly what it is to love unconditionally. I have learned to love through the tantrums, the meltdowns, the sensory overloads, all without anger. I have learned to love unconditionally. This doesn’t mean there isn’t frustration, and yes, sometimes even anger and hurt feelings over the challenges we face, but there is no anger at the person; no anger towards Ben. We get frustrated, and we correct, but first and foremost, we love.