My child, from the beginning of your life, I struggled to determine what was you and what was me. You kicked in utero and I assumed my own tummy rumbled. You cried your first cry and I felt my own chest clench. You took your first steps and I felt warm with my own pride.
The fact that every feeling, every milestone, every wimper, belongs to the baby while the mother wears and lives them as her own, is nature’s cruel head game.
Because, I’ve had to remember, had to remind myself: Love is separation.
My child, love is letting someone be entitled to their feelings, because they are theirs.
The day you accused me of favoring your brother…. I sat next to you and asked you to tell me more. Because love accepts separate feelings, even when doing so triggers your deapest fears of failure.
My child, love is accepting that someone possesses their own opinions, because those opinions are theirs.
The day you told me it was pointless to fold your clothes because you don’t mind wrinkles….. I told you to fold them anyway, but smiled at the different way you think. Because love accepts separate opinions, even when they conflict with your particular values.
My child, love is accepting someone’s separate desires because they are theirs.
The day you said you wanted to get a green Mohawk….. We talked open-mindedly about all the pros and cons and you decided that with prom coming up you’d use washable dye. Because love accepts separate desires even when it triggers your own embarrassment.
In fact, my child, love is accepting someone’s separate experience, even if that experience is anger toward you.
The day you took out the car without asking permission and I made you take the bus for two weeks…..I loved you enough to validate your desire, correct your behahor, and tolerate your anger. Because love accepts separate feelings even with they trigger your fears of rejection.
Love, my child, is sometimes not having control, and reminding yourself that acquiescence is not synonymous with respect.
Love is sometimes agreeing to disagree, and reminding yourself that overlapping identities is not a requirement for an acceptable identity.
Love is sometimes even being away from one another, and reminding yourself that smothering is not synonymous with relating.
Love is sometimes not getting your way, and reminding yourself that sharing a perspective is not the same as caring.
Love is recognizing you as you and me as me because separation is love.
In fact, you may be my child, for me to guide and teach and love, but you do not belong to me.
From, the therapist who says people who are raised in invalidating environments (or who have invalidating spouses) often go on to equate “control” with love instead of “relating” with love, and are high-risk for conflating “love” and “sameness” with their own kids.