August 08, 2010

Why Do You Love Me, Even When I Hurt You?

"Why do you love me, even when I hurt you?"

THAT is the question posed to me by The Boy the other day.

Wow. I wasn't prepared for THAT one, let me tell ya. This one question, asked in all seriousness, caused several deep conversations around the Cleaver compound.

And I'm not sure I ever gave The Boy a good answer.

I suppose before I discuss my answer(s), I should explain the question, and why I think The Boy asked it.

It was a typical day; and on a typical day, I'd estimate that The Boy has a hurtful/mean/sarcastic comment for me every 30 10 5 minutes or so. So on a typical day, every 30 10 5 minutes or so, I am explaining why the current comment is unacceptable, and asking for (nay, sometimes DEMANDING) an apology.

On a typical day, the apology is usually given without much problem.

An important point in this discussion - The Boy has many non-typical days. On a non-typical day, hurtful/mean/sarcastic exchanges between himself and me occur on a more frequent basis. There are days when there is not one positive interaction between us. On the very worst of days, The Boy's meanness can instantly go from verbal to physical. 

He has hurt me physically on the very worst days, or threatened to hurt me, on the typical or non-typical days. 

So there's usually an awful lot for The Boy to feel sorry about. When he's able to muster up some empathy (which is not often at all), then his guilt can be overwhelming to him. The guilt also rears its head after any type of physical assault. He realizes, in hindsight, that he has done something very wrong, and he feels so bad about it...and himself.

Anyway, back to the other, typical day. He had just insulted me, and received the usual admonishment and call for an apology.

Nothing more was said about this instance of inappropriate behavior after his delivery of, and my subsequent acceptance of, his apology. 

I have the uncanny knack to forgive and forget most of The Boy's indiscretions almost immediately. I think this ability is why he is still alive, and living under my roof, at age 15. I think many parents would have found alternate living arrangements for him (as was suggested by at least one agency we worked with when The Boy was 9) - and I can pick up any newspaper and read about parents who resorted to child abuse when their son or daughter got them to the breaking point.

So if you ask me just what The Boy did to earn a punishment, or what was the impetus that caused his last major meltdown? - I may not be able to tell you. The slate in my mind has been wiped clean (though sometimes, if I think really hard about it, I am able to make out the faint letters on the slate that the eraser missed, and describe the behavior in question). 

The Mister sees this as a character flaw on my part. I describe it as divine intervention and luck.

Lucky for The Boy, I was endowed with great patience after his birth. Not one to spout about faith or religion often, I truly believe it was God's grace that day that filled me with such a sense of peace and patience, and the knowledge that I would love this child, no matter what (I did NOT possess this level of patience or self-control when my daughters were young - and they didn't even come close to The Boy's behavior).

To make a long post even longer, let's return to the original question: "Why do you love me, even when I hurt you?"

Some of my thoughts:

I love this Boy more than I can fully explain. 

I loved him even before he was born.
He is my son, my child, one of three children I have been blessed to give birth to.
I have never NOT loved him, even when he has been at his worst with me (in fact, when he is at his worst, he needs my love MORE).
I think it is safe to say that nobody loves him with the intensity that I do - nobody has taken care of him his whole life, 24/7 (oh, I hate that phrase), like I have. 
I have worked hard at this love. He hasn't always made it easy to love him.

And my totally illogical, fly in the face of what is in the news answer?

"I love you because I am your mother. I love you because you are my son."

The Mister's take on this love thing? He says it's hormones (he blames LOTS of stuff on my hormones).

I fully realize that my answer, and surely, The Mister's answer, are inadequate, and that they don't make sense. Fathers love their children. Adoptive parents and foster parents love their children - so, as a biological mother, I can't say that it takes the experience of birth to make a person love their child. And The Mister can't blame this (and most of the other calamities at the Cleaver compound) on powerful hormones that can cause a mother to bond with their newborn.

Add this to the fact that other family members and friends can love my child, too. There have even been a few teachers who loved The Boy, too (as well as a couple more who couldn't wait to get him out of their classroom, and out of their school building).

So, after all this thought and discussion, I still don't have a very good answer for The Boy.

Why DO I love The Boy, even when he hurts me?

Who knows. I just DO. And he should be grateful of that fact, and do everything in his power to make sure that I don't reach my breaking point...because it would be a very sad day for all concerned if The Boy didn't have me in his corner.

Until I come up with a more accurate and complete answer, I think I'll just fall back on my answer when The Boy asks THIS question: "How much do you love me?"

"More than anything."

I've been giving this same answer since approximately 1980, when my oldest daughter Shannon first asked that question. 

I'm such a creature of habit.


  1. Wow! Knowing a little about you and The Boy, this is a very compelling post! It amplifies unconditional love, and the commitment to carry on no matter what.

    It's amazing what we can do for our families even when we think we are at the end of our ropes! I agree with you that many days it is by God's grace that everyone is still breathing at bedtime.

    I'm sending you my tiara.

    Great post!

  2. This post was amazing,insightful and powerful...the role of Mom,Mother,Mommy is not always an easy one but it can be very rewarding

  3. This brought tears to my eyes. The Boy has the mother he needs, and she has The Boy she needs .. for whatever reason. Who needs a reason? You have each other and that is enough. Love is mysterious and cannot be explained. Hugs to you.

  4. A beautiful post that describes so perfectly a mothers love for her child. As I read this, I kept thinking that it was almost like you were describing God's unconditional love for us. I feel blessed to have read this today. Thank you!

  5. I agree with Lori. When I read this I thought of how your unconditional love for The Boy is such a clear demonstration of the unconditional love that God feels for each of us.

    I love my children in a way that I could never explain. And, as you say, I am able to forgive them no matter what, and in a way that doesn't really apply to anyone else! An ability that I can only attribute to God's grace.

  6. What a great post! I admire your strength and your patience to teach him and to show him and to love him "more than anything".

    And he's very lucky!

  7. wonderful post! I have a boy only learning the art of hurtful/mean/sarcastic comments so I'm glad you posted this! Great story!


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