With Valentine's Day just around the corner I think it's time we have an honest discussion about the meaning of love.
Of course, given that there are different types of love, as in "I love chocolate!" (which I do), or "I love sleeping late on Saturday morning," (again, which I do) or "I love my dog, Boogie," (which I don't because I don't even have a dog), or "I love you, Hubby," (which I really, really do) - I need to distinguish which type of love I'm talking about here.
It's the love that a parent has for his or her child, and how that love is put into practice.
I don't think any sane parent would venture to say that we don't love our sons or daughters. But, the truth is, many of us don't act like it.
The sad reality is that showing true love for our own flesh and blood in today's society, for many parents, is often replaced with a totally selfish desire on the part of the parent to be liked by their child.
In other words, so many moms and dads today want to be our children's "friend" more than we want to protect, nurture, and mold them into the best that they can be. Simply put, we're so afraid to challenge them that we're failing in our duties to show real love toward our children by protecting them.
Let me give you a few examples:
16-year-old Rianna wants to go to a party on Friday night. Her mom has no idea where she is going, with whom Rianna will be, or what they will be doing. Mom won't take the time and effort to find out - she never does. Tell me....is that parental love in practice?
14-year-old Sam goes to his room almost every night and spends hours online. Dad has never, ever checked the internet sites Sam is visiting, never asked to see his "friends" list on Facebook, and hasn't dared to put a filter on the computer to protect Sam from getting slammed by porno e-mails. Tell me...is that parental love in practice?
12-year-old Ashley often dresses in a thong, low-cut jeans and a shirt that reveals her developing cleavage. Mom and Dad actually give her the money to buy the clothes and even drop her off at the mall for shopping sprees. Yes, Dad moans a bit when his precious little girl walks out the door looking like a street walker, and Mom whines every now and then about the styles - but neither one actually does anything about it. Tell me...is that parental love in practice?
9-year-old Kim is obsessed (like so many teen girls are) with Hannah Montana. She often searches on YouTube for the latest scoop, videos, etc on Hannah, but Mom and Dad have never bothered to see how easy it is for Kim to stumble onto other foul videos far removed from the innocence of Hannah. Tell me...is that parental love in practice?
Most school teachers work hard every day to help our kids learn their way through Algebra, World History and the like. Yet, how many kids have been taught by their parents to say a simple "thanks" to the teacher every now and then, or to simply be respectful? Tell me...is that parental love in practice?
I could go on and on, but you get the picture.
The word "love" isn't defined by a mere feeling - its true meaning is defined and measured by action. Our "love" for our child only becomes truly evident when we act to protect; to strengthen;to nurture; to, for pity's sake, actually parent our child.
Moms and Dads: Your child doesn't need you to be their best friend. They don't want you to behave like just another of their drifting peers. God gave babies to adults for a reason - so we could guide them, protect them, counsel them, and actively love them by doing so.
But truly loving our child doesn't mean just saying "no". It also means modeling love for our child. It means, in this world where relationships are easily disposable, reminding our children every single day that we do truly love them from the depths of our souls, and that we will be there for them through thick and thin.
I've always been touched by the Jewish "blessing" that the pastor of the church I attend in Arlington, Virginia charges new parents with. Instead of dedicating babies when they are born, Pastor King aks the parents to dedicate their lives to truly loving their children.
This ancient Jewish blessing that charges parents to actively love their children goes something like this:
1) Bless your child every day with loving, meaningful touch.
2) Bless your child every day by speaking words of love, and by sharing your faith and values with them.
3) Bless your child every day by verbalizing a future for them that is full of promise and hope.
4) Bless your child every day by telling them how much they are loved by God.
5) Bless your child every day by letting them know of your undying commitment to them.
So, you see, learning to say "no" to certain activities; asking your child about who they hang out with; putting limits on media that devalues and debases humanity - all can be done in a spirit of love if they are also accompanied by daily reminding your child of the tremendous value they have in both your and God's eyes.
Saying "no" shouldn't be done in anger (although a little righteous indignation - as my mom used to call it - is sometimes called for.) And you should avoid saying "no" without replacing the desired activity or item with something else.
Poll after poll shows that even though our children consume up to 8 1/2 hours of media a day, they still say that the number one influence on their lives are their parents. Mom and Dad, the question isn't if you are going to influence your children, the question is how you are going to do it. Your silence about who they hang out with, or what they watch, or how they treat others shows your children that you really don't care. Your steaming silence when they engage in an act of which you don't approve, is interpreted as an endorsement of that behavior. Or at the very least, just shows your kids that you are a wimp.
When God hands you a warm little crying baby, you are given the marvelous, miraculous opportunity to shape and mold a tiny human being into someone that can bless and grace the world with love. But you have to be willing to act out your love on them first.
I can think of no better Valentine gift for you son or daughter than for you to commit to become the mom or dad that your children deserve - that they need.
For more on how you can begin to put the Jewish blessing into action in your home today, I encourage you to visit SmalleyOnline.com . You'll find terrific resources on just how you can put your love into action.