Sometimes I think I get so wrapped up in parenting, I can't see the forest for the trees. There are days when every time I open my mouth, it's only to tell someone to stop standing on something, stop fighting, stop whining, or to do something like clean up, eat, or sit. Time after time there are only corrections and instructions. With four kids, I find myself talking at them pretty much all day. I know that because they're toddlers this is part of the deal. They need boundaries. They need guidance. Still, there are times when I sit back and go over my day and I can't help but wonder what makes me so different from a daycare or a babysitter. Nothing about what I've done all day is so much different from what we could pay a stranger to do instead.
It's in those times of reflection that I realise I need to make time for more cuddles, more laughter, and I need to remember to say more than the "do"s and "don't"s to my kids. Over the past week I've tried to make a conscious effort to interrupt my own constant stream of instructions to pause, take each child aside, and to simply say "I love you" and "I'm so glad you're my child". I'm sure this seems obvious to everyone, but it's something I struggle with. I do love my kids. If anything ever happened to one of them, part of my life would end there and then. Everything I do every day is for them. I gave up my chance to have a career outside the home to be able to be with them, to give them everything they needed.
All my instructions and guidance comes from that place of deep love, and wanting to help them be safe and also to learn and grow, but I know feeling this love for them isn't enough to let them know I feel it. I'm sure when they're older they'll be able to look back and see that all of this is coming from a place of love, but until then I need to say it, as often as I can, when they're being good and when they're being bad. I want them to know that I love them no matter what, and always have. I can't stop setting limits for their safety, but I never want to set a limit on my love for them.
After about a week of spontaneous "I love you"s, I'm still finding the kids crazy, wonderful, a little out of control, and hilarious. They haven't changed much, although my oldest son has started spontaneously saying "I love you" too every once in a while. I really wasn't looking for a change in them, I was looking for a change in me. I know I needed to do this so I could appreciate again my special role in this family, that I'm more than a housekeeper or babysitter. Whether we're at home or working, I think every parent teaches one great lesson to their children: that no matter what, there is someone who loves them unconditionally, deeply and constantly.