When Lily was about 7 months old, my father told me that I was a good mother and that they had always worried I might not "take" to motherhood.
I had no idea my parents ever had this particular concern about me. I never once suspected they thought I was a baby eating monster or a career woman who would have 3 nannies (Note: I would love 3 nannies, but have more of a -3 nannies bank account.)
I grew up feeling unconditionally loved with every single breath. So, when my Dad said this about me, I was surprised, but not insulted. When my father told me his concerns; I had no idea he ever had them. He explained how much he worried that they did not parent me enough and how much he feared they did not prepare me. But never once before or after did I ever experience anything except for unconditional love from my parents. My Dad would have loved me even if I was messing up.
His love did not come with anything, except, well, love.
My mom was on the same love page. She told me everyday how I could be and do anything, if I was willing to work for it. She wasn't a mom who cooked or cleaned or did my hair or took me dress shopping or helped plan my wedding. But she was a mom, who took on the role of cheerleader. It was constant, even when I was awful. (And I was awful as a teenager.). It is still the same--she might not ever read this blog, unless I print it and pretend a famous male author wrote it--but she will tell me everyday that I am good enough to be anything I want.
My father was more of the caregiver--the hair braider, Gap shopping partner and meal maker--but he also worked a lot. And then there was my brother, who needed both of my parents all the time. It was a hard position for them and for me. But, I had some great moms in my life--Mrs. Delmar, mother to my friend Jess and Mrs. Cook, mother to my friend Jen, who were always there for me when my parents had to be elsewhere. These other moms were in my life--because my parents loved me enough to ask for help.
I always understood just how much my parents loved me. My parents' love for me had no conditions attached. When I succeeded, they loved me. When I failed, they loved me. When they thought they were failing at their own parenthood, they were not, because they were loving the best they could.
This first gift of unconditional love set the stage for everything good in my life--like my husband.
I love my husband. I've loved him since I was 16 years old. It's insane to think that I was my oldest daughter's age when I found the person I'd be with forever. But here we are: trying to always do better, forgiving one another through the worst, taking 10 minutes of vitamin supplements a day to stay healthy and holding each other up through so many sicknesses, as long as we both shall live (which is hopefully a very long time! I'd haunt the tart who tried to marry my widower. And I am too exhausted to ever remarry.) I've worried about him sometimes and I've been angier than hell at him other times. He's hurt me plenty. I've hurt him plenty. But, my love is unconditional and he can always trust that he has it, forever.
When it comes to my children--whom I love more than anything in this world--I work to make sure they know that my love comes with zero expectations. It isn't to say I don't have expectations for their behavior or their morales or their school work. It is just that I love them when they win, I love them when do okay and I love them when they fail. My love is not something earned. It is something given.
And when it comes to my friends, who I often wonder why they put up with me and my endless problems and ranting and text messages and confusion, I feel the same way. My love is not something they earn, it is something they just have. No matter how bad they are at sending funny memes or if they share my super secret french toast casserole recipe kicking off two weeks of epic french toast casserole hysteria or how many times they forget to return my phone call, the love is given, always, unconditionally and forever.