WKND Parenting Tips: Children need much more than love from their parents

By Kavita Srinivasan, parenting coach

Published: Thu 28 Jan 2021, 3:43 PM

Last updated: Thu 28 Jan 2021, 4:16 PM

“I love you.”

She would say it so many times I had lost count by the time the day drew to an end. And the months she wasn’t around and I was in boarding school, holding on to the words wasn’t enough. They had disappeared like sound clouds in the air. It was the ’80s. There were no mobiles. All the connection I had was a weekly international trunk call with her voice far, far away… at the other end of a static-ridden line. “I love you.” Had she said it or had the electric wires crossed and mouthed the words from my mind out loud? I would never know.

Love is not enough. Saying it is not enough. Presence is what matters.

How can you feel love when someone isn’t around? When there are no precious predictable moments of comfort? When there aren’t beds to be shared and eyes to look into? When there aren’t arms to be held in and tears to be kissed by the one set of lips that really can swallow your pain whole? And that’s just it. The only thing that really matters is PRESENCE ­--- physical and emotional.

When my son was one-year-old, he would cry if I so much as stood up, forget leaving the room. I had done everything ‘right’. It had gotten so bad that I could barely shower or use the restroom without a clinging toddler burying his chubby fists in every crevice of my body he could dig his way into. I wanted to scream. And I did. Loudly. When he wasn’t around.

I had told him a thousand times I loved him. And I did, absolutely and completely. Then why couldn’t he feel it?

I wasn’t there. My physical presence didn’t matter because all I wanted to do was put on a pair of sneakers and run a marathon to the top of the lone sand dune I had spotted on the drive to Ras Al Khaimah. I wanted the soft sand to bury me whole. But how could he know this? I was right in front of him making all the cooing sounds I could muster up despite the lump in my throat.

My words were sound clouds he couldn’t hold on to. They were empty.

Children are feeling beings and are ruled by the right side of their brain that governs emotion. They sense no logic. All he knew was my reluctance. They feel every flinch, every shred of anxiety; it’s how human beings are wired to survive. My absence was an alarm that created havoc in his brain. A lack of parental presence makes the world feel like an unsafe landmine of unpredictability triggering the fight-flight-faint response of the brain. The message booms loud and clear: The world is an unsafe place. A message that never leaves a child, unless a parent changes.

Getting my parts to piece whole into a glued presence was as painful as slicing a limb clean off my body. But in that healing, I somehow began to fill up with the only nourishment I needed –-- my heart, soul and mind welded into one. When you accept and embrace your flaws and show compassion for your need to escape, the parts of you that flee, actually return. They come home to be housed in the body you call home --- a home that puts a roof over your child’s head.


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