There was a time I thought these were the lyrics to the Tina Turner song. And as a child I didn’t question why a pop star would ask a fictional character from a children’s story about the definition of love. That’s the beauty of childhood. You live in a world where not only can a man talk to animals, but he can provide good relationship advice as well. As I grew up, I eventually left this magical world and moved into one where love often seems “a sweet old-fashioned notion.”
Then, I became the mother of two creatures who live in the world I used to inhabit. And I have discovered that neither Tina Turner nor Dr. Doolittle could have taught me anything. My children have taught me all I need to know about love.
Lesson #1: Love accepts imperfections.
I’m told that as a child if I didn’t quite get my drawing right, I would crumple it up and throw it away. I am still this way today. Over the weekend I became inspired to make a homemade Valentine for my sweetie, and when it didn’t meet with my expectations, it found its way to the garbage.
Fortunately, perfection is not one of the requirements of motherhood. I do not always say the right things. Sometimes I do not even use my words. I have been in the right place at the wrong time. Or the wrong place at the right time. And still my children love me. They do not question whether Mommy got it right. To them, the perfect outfit or the perfect home or the perfectly baked raspberry scone served with the perfectly brewed white chocolate mocha means nothing. Instead, pirate hats can be worn to a tea party under a canopy made of mismatched cushions and princess sheets. And if I’m not on time, they will save me a spot.
Lesson #2: Love does not ask for anything in return.
A child’s expression of love is pure, sweet, and innocent. It has no ulterior motive. Often given in unexpected ways, it is given without expectation. It is the way we should all aspire to love.
My younger child is not quite able to articulate her love, but that does not stop her from randomly hugging on her sister while they are seated together at the table for dinner. It does not stop her from running to meet Daddy at the door when he comes home from work. Nor does it stop her from patting Mommy on the knee when she is crying.
The older one can express her love in more complex ways, but the sentiment is the same. When she knows I’m having a bad day, she has been known to set up a retreat complete with pillows, books, and even a snack in the hallway. At other random times, I am the recipient of her latest creation, whether it be a Lego sculpture or a drawing. Sometimes she just stops what she’s doing, looks up at me, and says, “I love you, Mama.”
Lesson #3: Love really is all you need.
Yes, there are other essentials like food, water, and shelter, but besides these what do my children really need? More toys? The latest game or gadget? Cable television? We have shared some of our best times with an empty diaper box or a couple of sticks from the front yard. They are happy just to be with each other and with me. What more could I ask for?
With Valentine’s Day around the corner, I look at the lessons my children have taught me and realize that I do not need to design the perfect card or buy an expensive present to share the love. I just need to be a part of their world. I think I’ll start by turning up the stereo and dancing to some Tina Turner. And then settling in for an evening with Dr. Doolittle.