I wrote an article a couple of days ago, about cosseting my youngest child with love, which generated many hits and responses. It is no secret to the large group of people who know my family: we all dote on Georgina.  Though she is almost 17 and is a large, capable and accomplished girl, she is still the baby of our family. It was only recently, when her cousin’s partner gave birth to baby Lauren that the privilege of being the youngest in a very large and close family was stripped from her.

“Hmmmm,” she said with a big frown about baby Lauren.

G is loved to within an inch of her life, but she is not obnoxious. Simply because I don’t tolerate rudeness, and I never have. It’s the one unbroken commandment in the house – respect and zero tolerance on rudeness – and the children were raised with that from early on.

Of course G tries it on. All the time.  “Can you please fetch me a cup of tea?” She would say sweetly. “I am too tired to move.”

Absolutely not. You have to do your bit for the family to make it work.

She would ham up her already cut-glass English accent and say, “With due respects, Mother…..” as she fights to rule over us. But we see these skirmishes as learning opportunities, that we teach her with love. Every single skirmish is a learning opportunity, though, oh, it gets tiring sometimes. It is a learning opportunity for me, too, to control my temper and learn patience. Because all too often, we repeat the destructive patterns and habits of our past, and past it on to the next generation unthinkingly.

So though G is couched with so much love (too much?), there are rules that she has to obey to continue enjoying the privileges and goodness that she currently enjoys. Our family unit – similar to most, I would say – is a community that works well when everyone does his or her part, and treat each other with kindness and respect. Withholding love has nothing to do with the greater good of the unit.

As another mother said to me, “Most teenagers are self-centred and selfish. It has nothing to do with too much love.” As parents, we have to teach children selfless love, and it is most effective when taught by example.  “Monkeys see, monkeys do.” Though children might not always listen to parental advice, their eyes are always open to our examples, to how we live our lives. In adulthood, this “norm” is subconsciously replicated. It is our legacy.

Depriving children of selfless, big love does not make them into kind, giving adults. In fact, I have seen a couple of cases where the contrary happened – folks who were deprived of selfless love in their childhood grew into men who are unable (does not know how?) to love selflessly.

Photo: My two daughters striking up a regal pose