In our family, love is a big deal. So we try and teach that a lot.
Fostering a sense of sisterly love: it's like Will Ferrel's Motivational Juggling Routine in The Office.
While balancing Shiloh in one arm, seven barbies in the other, walking up the stairs to get the laundry, making sure Canaan doesn't fall down the stairs since she's donned the Belle Gown and her pumps, at the same time as making a motivational speech about how biting someones finger and saying "I thought it was a snack" is not ok--that is the Motivational Juggling Routine I live.
Holidays such as the Fourth of July provide a perfect opportunity to encourage our motto, "Love God and Love Others (primarily your sister right now.)"
We use a variety of techniques to instill love, such as the old Comparison of Your Situation Discussion, "You think you're mad about not being able to sit in the left stroller seat since Shiloh's sitting there? Think about how the Patriots during the American Revolution felt after their taxes were unjustly raised! LOOK!! A Fair Tax float coming down the street right now!!"
A good float can make anyone feel more loving.
And also the 107 degree weather dulls the senses so that you don't really feel much of anything else.
Loving others includes babies like Dawson (Cassie and Craig Gentry's little boy). Loving is easy when the recipient sleeps 95% of the time.
I think that's why God chose to teach us about the unconditional love between a parent and a child beginning when the child is mostly asleep for the first few weeks.
Because unconditional love is put to the test when there are major messes involved. Of course I still love you, but do I like the fact that I just ________ (swept, mopped, gave you a bath, cleaned this kitchen, vacuumed that carpet, cleaned out the car...) and now there is ________ (ground up crackers, unexplainable flour scattered, finger paint smeared, lentil beans squashed...) everywhere?
Is "unconditional like" similar to "unconditional love"? Completely different?? Not sure.
But then I look at this little face and the noodle-shrapneled floor and I think, "This is what it's like when, despite the messes we've made in our life time, God still looks at us and says, 'I'm crazy about that kid.'"
Love for our friends: Canaan learns this lesson aboard the boat with the Bardin's.
Despite the fact that her life jacket was circa 1972 and Gracie and Joy's had sassy designs and met the Coast Guard weight/height requirements, Canaan learns an important lesson: love knows no fashion.
Is it okay to love someone especially more if you're secretly hoping he'll marry your daughter one day? Is that, in fact, the epitome of "conditional love"?
Love between a Pop-pop and his granddaughter is very genuine--poor guy had three sons and now has three granddaughters with little to no previous experience of dressing Barbies or matching crowns to earrings or h0w to deal with high pitched screaming fits. But love covers a multitude of shortcomings. Good thing, too.
You may be familiar with the trusty "Five Love Languages." In our household, we've added a few more.
The Goodwin Family Love Languages
1. Danger--we both give and receive this one. Perching your young children on a tall rock for a photo shoot shows that a.) I love you enough to take a picture one handed while spotting you with the other, strategically out of the picture so I won't need to photo edit later. b.) you love me enough to trust me when I say, "If you fall, we'll probably have to call 911." Danger provides that perfect opportunity to show how much we really love each other.
2. Squirrels: when we see a squirrel, we are reminded of our high energy three year old. Constantly on the move, thinking of and implementing a "great idea", and able to jump great distances without a thought as to if I'm going to make it or not. We also think of our crafty one year old, who can hide items in places that will be sure to remain hidden for a few months or so. Like the Little People we find in coffee cups, or the cow in the bottom shelf of the fridge, or the blocks in the cat's water bowl.
And so squirrels remind us of the crazy love we have for our girls.
3. Tickling: a favorite among the younger children, tickling produces instant happiness, thus erasing the negative feelings related to time out, or the loss of the mermaid's tail under the couch again, or the frequently heard "No more sugar for you" response, or the fact that I do have to change your diaper many times a day whether you like it or not, or even the old Nemesis: Bed Time. Tickling makes love easy.
4. Cleaning up your own mess: one that Tim looks forward to every day of his life. Whether it's using a fork the entire meal or not taking apart the sandwich and just licking the jelly off one side or simply wiping your own face after dinner, this love language speaks especially loudly for him.
But despite the daily (and insanely numerous) messes we clean up every day, life is full of way more love when those kids are in the picture--jelly smeared face and all.
Before kids, I thought I loved other people pretty well. But in the back of my mind there was usually a condition, "As long as they..."
Having kids proved that I had no idea what unconditional love was all about.
Poop under my fingernail again? Not a second thought. Perpetual ants under your high chair thanks to throwing food on the ground every day? No problem. Not as much time to do what I want to do anymore? Somethings come up that's a little better than that.