I shared a story with a client yesterday which I hadn’t thought of in a long time.
My client and I were talking about how we sometimes feel closer to one child than the other, how one child might respond more to us than the other, and how we make that mean something about ourselves which really it doesn’t. We might feel judged by this child because he or she triggers our deepest fears of not being a good parent. We might convince ourselves that the child does not love us.
Ten years ago, when I separated from my ex-husband, I felt much closer to my older daughter Cara—who was nine at the time—than I felt to my four year old daughter Tia. I was the older sibling myself and had always connected more with my mother and less with my father, and somehow I had fallen into the same pattern with my own children. Unconsciously, we often repeat what we have experienced. Just as I had the better relationship with my mother and my younger sister connected better with my father, the same seemed to show up for my children. Until a few years ago, when I consciously decided to heal my relationship with my father, I felt deprived of his love just as my sister felt not as accepted by my mom. I deep-down feared that the same family dynamic would unfold in my own family.
However, from noticing this to making a change, I needed someone else to comment on this situation and to be a mirror for me. I had confided in one of my friends—who still is a good friend today and will probably read this with a smile—that I was afraid to completely loose my younger one’s love during the separation. I believe I even said to her that my younger daughter loves her father more than me. I probably wanted to hear from her that wasn’t true and was hoping to get some reassurance that everything would be fine.
Instead she gave me something much better. She started observing how both my husband and I interact with the children. A few days later, she came back to me. Still to this day I remember her words because they hurt at the time and had a deep impact. She said, “I know now why Tia loves Tom more than you. Your energy is always going towards Cara while he focuses on Tia.”
I didn’t like her comment one bit. That was not what I wanted to hear! I was really hurt at the time and didn’t talk to my friend for a few weeks. She had confirmed my worst fear.
Was it true that my younger daughter “loved her father more”? Of course it was not true. My friend had just taken the story I had chosen to run and reflected it back to me. She also pointed out to me that there is a cord, an energy going between us and others, and that we can choose to focus on somebody, feel them and communicate with them beyond words. Relationships between parents and children are built and maintained by how we feel about ourselves and about them and by the energy we send out.
I was so annoyed at my friend and what she had noticed that I swore to myself to change the situation. From that day on, I worked on building a closer relationship with my younger daughter.
A couple of years later, my fear was completely forgotten. I had learned that my children love both their parents equally, because there is enough love to go around. It is not a question of “either or” like it was in my family with my parents for the longest time.
For four decades, I was convinced that my dad loved my younger sister more. And on top of that, I had an older half-sister who I felt threatened by. It seemed like the younger one had “stolen” my dad’s affection and the older one through her existence had taken away my “position” as the oldest. My feeling space was that I was the Nobody in the middle between them. The situation triggered a feeling of “not being special”. I felt judged by my dad, and never good enough as far as he was concerned. I truly believed he didn’t like me as much and for the longest time I gave up on the relationship. After all, I had my mom, who I knew loved me like nobody else ever would. To her I was “special”.
Was this true? Did my dad not care about me? Of course that was not true. He just felt helpless and didn’t know how to connect with me. He felt the judgement from my side of not being a good enough father. Were we consciously judging each other? No, we were just triggering each others insecurities. We were mirroring our deepest fears for each other.
I am deeply grateful that I had the opportunity to heal the relationship with my dad and to see how much he cares. I wasted forty years during which I could have felt that to him I was also special. He used to say “I love my three daughters the same”. I used to feel that was a lie. I still don’t believe he loves us “the same” because we are very different women, but I believe what he was trying to say is that there is no “more or less” when it comes to the love of a parent. Each child is special. I love both my daughters as the amazing and beautiful individuals that they are.
The bond between a mother and her child, or a father and his child, cannot be broken as long as the parent continues to be loving and accepting and stays out of his/her own fear story. “My son does not love me as much as he loves his dad”, or “My daughter doesn’t want to connect with me, only with her mom” are self-fulfilling prophecies. We are creating and manifesting broken relationships by choosing to buy into these stories of fear and pain.
The key is to find ways to spend time with our children, as a family and alone. When did you last have one-on-one time with your son or daughter? And the answer is always Love. Nobody can take the love away that a child naturally has for his/her mother and father—no ex-partner, no new partner or step-parent. Your mother is always your mother and your father is always your father. There is no competition which needs to be feared. Any relationship which is at one point shaken up, can be completely healed.
Relationship Coaching and Healing & Conscious Parenting