As I held the little bundle in my arms, a brand new baby girl, I looked down at her and knew that she was mine. All mine! I continued to purvey her little hands and feet the size of my thumb, that oh so delicate nose, and I knew, without a doubt, that I had no freaking clue what to do with this baby!
The years have gone by, and now I am a mom of five kids. Five rambunctious, personable, make me laugh out loud, sweet, infuriating and all consuming little people. I still don’t know what I am doing, but I do know today that the mamma love that I had when they were small, is not even comparable to the love I have for them today. Truth be told, back then, at a time when I had three little kids under the age of 6, I probably didn’t have enough consciousness about me to even decipher any grander thoughts than when my next nap was going to be. As a new mom you really don’t realize that these little delicate creatures are going to become people one day. It is only a matter of time and invested energy coupled with mutual experiences that will allow you to learn to love them in an unyielding way.
But there is something else that I have learned about love. Something that was staring me point blank in the face. I had to experience this for myself to truly believe. (Life Epiphany number 33)
It is not those who give to you that you love the most, it is the ones YOU give to that creates within you a drop dead, do anything for them, never stop until you die, always thinking about you LOVE.
Now it seems so obvious (slap my forehead) as I look at all of the evidence pointing to this fact. Our ancient language seems to have figured it out already since the word for love in Hebrew, “Ahava” is based on the root “hav” which literally means: to give.
Giving is what love is all about.
Tell this to all of the people who write on their dating profiles that they are looking for a woman/man that knows how to pamper and give to them. Tell that to couples who fight because they don’t think the other one is doing enough for them.Tell that to parents who can’t connect to their children because they don’t feel like their kids are giving enough back to them or appreciating them for all of their efforts.
I think about my role models growing up.
The love I saw that was all about giving, not about taking. My grandmother who supported my grandfather’s rabbinic post, who looked after the kids and the home, who loved unconditionally. When my grandfather would arrive home and he would see her looking distressed he would sit her on his lap and play with her hair while she spoke to him about the problems and issue she had dealt with that day.
From the first time my father met my mother he let her sisters borrow his sports car, he gave her whatever she needed and just continuously took pictures of her all day long. I love to look at those pictures of young love, of my mother brushing her long, thick hair in the mirror with the reflection of my father in the background. Just the other day I was sitting in the kitchen with my parents and my mother offered my father soup. His response was one that I have heard over and over again throughout the years, “Whatever makes you happy!” because although he loves her soup, he knows that when she serves it to him it makes her oh so very happy. My father doesn’t buy my mother things simply because she wants them, he does it because he truly wants to make her happy. They allow each other to live out their own lives and yet, they are joined in a way that is truly a blessing.
Even when I went away to University, back to Toronto, I lived with my Aunt and Uncle whose love had never diminished over the years. This was a true example of that type of giving with no holds barred. When it snowed and my aunt had to get into the car, my uncle would reverse the car into the driveway so that she wouldn’t have to walk all the way around to get to the passenger side. Every week she would bake his favorite cake for him and every week without fail, he would exclaim wholeheartedly that this was the best cake he had ever tasted in his life!
Even the older generations such as my great uncle loved my great aunt oh so much. But he was not a shmoozer and after a family get together he would say goodbye and leave. He knew that my great aunt was one of “our kind”, and loved to say goodbye for half an hour, so he would sit patiently in the car and wait for her.
That was love.
And my other aunts and uncles whom I spent a lot of time with growing up were in love from their youth, they had grown together, were best friends and were used to giving to each other for many, many years.
There was no account balance that was tallied daily in their lives. In their minds, there were no withdrawals. Love was all about those never ending deposits, day in and day out.
I want to tell you one other little secret that I have discovered about love. When you give, it can’t be in order to receive in return. It has to be true giving, straight from the heart, no strings attached. You don’t need to be a doormat, but you need to realize that the account balance for love is not about your half in the pot.
I don’t give to my children because I hope that one day they will look after me in my old age, (after all, there is a huge excess of retirement homes in existence for a reason people!). I give to my kids because I want to, because I love to, because it makes my bond to them even stronger than you can ever imagine is humanly possible. I give to my siblings because I know that it makes me love them more and, as an adult, I try to give to my parents in the same unyielding, unconditional way that they gave, and continue to give, to me. I know that I will never be able to reach the level of love that their kind of giving entails, but I will damn well try.
Because love means never checking your account balance.
Don’t count your love, make your love count!
(Published originally in the Times of Israel, February 2013)