Defining Unconditional Love – Three Little Pigs Style

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I was a child in the sixties: a tumultuous time to say the least. My parents were very much a product of the fifties: that June Cleaver, Leave it to Beaver time when Mommies wore pretty dresses and did their hair and make-up every single day and Daddies went to work before the children were up and came back home just in time to kiss their offspring’s fresh, clean little faces before Mommy whisked them off to bed so she could serve Daddy his supper in peace.

I understand, now, how very, very difficult it must have been to be a parent – especially a mother – back in those days but oh, how I sometimes wish I had been born in another era. There was so much pressure on parents to be perfect and to raise the perfect child. Those were the days when children understood that they were to be seen but not heard. If a child got in trouble at school, their fervent hope was that the teacher didn’t call home to report it. When that happened, you were going to get a thrashing and you were going to be grounded. And woe be it if the neighbours caught you up to no good. There wasn’t a chance that they weren’t going to tell your mother (and then tell all the ladies at the sewing circle). Parenting and social standing walked hand in hand.

A few years ago, I found a letter that my grandmother had written to my parents: “Be careful with Patti,” she cautioned, “She is such a sensitive little soul. I think M_ (my sister) will be okay; she’s so feisty; but I do fear for little Patti.” When all was said and done, neither one of us would fare especially well: despite my sister’s outward spirited demeanor, turns out she was just as sensitive as her big sister ever was. She just hid it better.

I was still just a child when I started to imagine love as a brick wall. Each gesture; each loving look; each term of endearment; each hug was a brick. Enough bricks created a wall of love all around me. But each time I made Mommy or Daddy mad; each time I was bad; each time I got in trouble; they would get angry and that wall would come crashing down around me. In my childish mind, it was always my job to build the wall back up; to be good enough to once more merit the hugs; the loving looks; the praise that would restore that wall. It was exhausting because parents can and do get mad. Each time they were upset with me, I was devastated. Crushed. In complete despair. Each time meant starting over; rebuilding that wall back up again. It never seemed to get much higher than waist level. Just enough to cower behind; never enough to stand up straight.

I ‘get’ that my parents loved me with every single fibre of their being. I ‘get’ that they were the product of a fifties generation that made marriage look like a fairy tale followed by a generation of hippies that made the generation of the 50s look like the biggest of jokes, followed by many generations of excess, greed and unthinkable pressure. I ‘get’ that it was not an easy time to raise oneself, let alone attempt to raise a child.

When my children were born, like every other parent who has ever lived, I wanted to be better and do better. I had an advantage, though: I had that wall I had been working on my entire life. Love is never going to feel that solid for me. It’s too late. I am too broken. But it didn’t have to be that way for my children.

Like that little Patti my grandmother tried to protect all those years ago, my children were a fresh slate. And before they were ever born, I decided that I would build their walls differently. Each gesture; each kiss; each time I tucked them into bed was a brick, but before I turned away, I was careful to add a thick layer of mortar. No matter what happened, THIS was a wall that would never come down. I wanted them to feel – with no doubt whatsoever – that the wall I was building around them was a solid as a mountain. Indeed, I have placed so many loving bricks around them over the years that their walls must be higher than any mountain that exits.

And stronger than the sun.

Nothing they will ever do; nothing they will ever say could cause so much as one of those bricks to fall. They know this. They trust this. My love for them is completely, unequivocally, resoundingly unconditional.

No matter what…

Source of Photo

Patti Moore Wilson/© wednesdayschildca.wordpress.com

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Author: Patti Moore Wilson, wednesdayschild2

I write what I feel. And I rarely know exactly what I feel until I write. I have lived long enough to have known many joys and many sorrows. I have made many mistakes; I have forgiven myself for a few… I have learned that there are lessons in every step of this journey, if we only take the time to pay attention… I hope you will feel free to pick and choose the stories that resonate for you…

10 thoughts on “Defining Unconditional Love – Three Little Pigs Style”

  1. Thank you for sharing…. change is the law of life and the universe.. unfortunately there are those that resist change for whatever reasons and it is the offspring that will suffer because they are subject to the change… perhaps one day the future generations will allow the children to evolve as they wish, to follow their dreams, not that of the parent… 🙂

    “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” John F. Kennedy

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      1. With everyone being an individual and each family environment being different and ever changing, it would be impossible to make a book on how to be a parent… life is a learning process and so is being a parent (which is more difficult should one be closed minded)… 🙂

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  2. I’m also a child of the sixties and my parents started dating in the late 50’s. I’m not sure it was so different a life in the UK but my own experience was. My dad was self employed, an Architect, and my mum was a school teacher. Although semi-strict, my folks were loving, good humoured and kind. I don’t recall ever feeling ‘unheard’. If, however, my mum hadn’t had a career, if she’d been forced into that life of domestic servitude that I’d personally abhor, I’m not sure she would’ve coped. I had modern parents in many ways. Dad went to Art College when he was in his 30’s, helped and encouraged by my mum and her career. I know now that that was unusual, but then, I just saw it as the norm.

    So, I had a wonderful childhood…and then I grew up.

    I feel sad for the lack of emotion you received as a child. I wish that hadn’t been your experience, but I read the end with a little envy, because in spite of my beginnings I screwed up. I wasn’t a great parent for a number of reasons and although I have tried (and succeeded, they say) in making amends…guilt is the bitch that just keeps on coming. I envy your easy relationship with your kids and your confidence in that but am also so happy for you – and them – that you have it.

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    1. Oh it’s so rare to hear someone say they had a happy childhood… I’m so glad you did… And… one of these days, I will have to write about all the good times I lived with my parents. The thing is, I was very, very loved… I have never doubted that. It was just a very chaotic time and – like Forrest Gump and his chocolates – I never knew what I was going to ‘get’. And you should know… I have made my peace with ALL of it. I adored my Dad and feel his loving presence with me all the time. And I have recently been getting to know things my Mom went through that I had no idea about. It’s helped me to better understand a bunch of the things (can’t really write about that except to say it has helped me see her – and support her – with great love and compassion). It makes me want to weep to hear you say you have made amends with your kids… so many adult children don’t get to hear those words. If they say you succeeded, believe them…💕💕💕

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      1. It’s so great to hear how your relationship with your mom is going. My mum and I have discussed stuff a lot and she’s admitted to me recently that her relationship with HER mum was fraught at times and rarely demonstrative. That was news to me as my relationship with my Nanny was wonderful. The children of wartime, stiff-upper-lip Britain may have been 10 years ahead of 50’s America? My mum was an only child of elderly parents and she only had her dad for 15 years. I feel sad for my mum…now that I know. All 3 of my kids love me, and I do believe it. I wish that that niggle would go away though – the guilt is overpowering. I guess you would have to have felt it to understand how sick to the stomach it feels to have failed your kids. I’m not sure I’ll ever fully forgive myself, Patti. But at least I know that I’ve tried to fix it. My kid’s dad lost his chance a long time ago and, in a way, I’ve probably tried to overcompensate for the damage we both did.

        Sorry!! THIS blog of mine has been in draft form for a long time. It may never be published.

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      2. Oh how my heart empathizes… I carry some long-term guilt of my own so I have an idea of the niggle that won’t go away. Wish I had appropriate words but I know that sometimes words are not enough. Sending you a HUGE hug, though, and more compassion than you can possibly imagine…💕💕💕

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  3. Beautifully said and illustrated, Patti. It was a very different time, like you said, and very different style of parenting. Today, we have challenges as parents too, albeit, quite different in nature. I see what you mean about rebuilding the wall yourself trying to earn their love and approval. Although I was born in the 70s, still, I felt the need to do that and I am not even sure if my parents had demanded it. I wonder, sometimes, if it’s just part of our personality…being people pleasure and all…of course, combined with the silent demands of the kind of parenting of our generations. Thanks for sharing!

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