The other day, Little Boy said, "It's not that I love you, mama, but I do like you."
He stated this in a very matter-of-fact way, a little while after a squabble and the passion had died down.
After the initial ouch, I got to thinking. What I'm glad I realized is: it's actually not his job to love me.
It's my job to love him.
I say I'm glad because I can see how much suffering it could lead to if I did all this expecting a "love paycheck." Mothering is a job, it is work. It is also a relationship and a beautiful gift, but for sure it is work. Work for which I consciously volunteered.
So I reflect on how to love him. Which means figuring out, in each moment, how Little Boy is going to feel loved. Noticing when my idea of love is different from his idea, being with any suffering that might arise in that instance. Remembering the Heart's intention.
Ok, I'm not going to give him everything he wants whenever he wants it and I'm not saying it doesn't hurt when, in the heat of the moment, he blurts out, "I HATE you, mama!" But I vow to practice being the Bigger Container and starting where he is, not where I think he should be.
A recent example is when he shows me his latest Lego project.
I notice my resistance and assess the situation. If there's no chance of burning something on the stove, I step away from what I'm doing and breathe, recalling my intention. I kneel down and look at his face.
"This is the hatch, see? This is where the commander sits, actually he stands but in battle, he...."
I notice my thoughts: BORED! Sick of Legos! I'm such a mean mama! Want to get back to my "real" work!
And I breathe, see there is room for everything: all my discomfort, my intention to love, and Little Boy's desire for connection. I try to soften and expand, notice how my knees feel on the ground, the shine of his hair.
I hope this makes him feel loved. I really don't know for sure.
What I do know : when I can practice this kind of mindful effort, I often come away with the sense of a job well done.