The Strangest Love


I put her hair in a bun for ballet every Monday. I’ve gotten pretty good at it these days. I only do it once a week for now, but it takes me just a few minutes.

It hurts. It pulls. It pinches. And sometimes I don’t even like dance anyway.

It all comes spilling out of eight-year-old lips on Monday afternoons and it makes me sad. Not because she doesn’t beg to go to ballet. But because my sacrifice for her will never be a mutual thing.

It might be the strangest job of loving in the universe: that of a parent and her child.  

We are theirs, always. But they are not truly ours.

It’s this job we say “yes” to, and the love, in the same way, won’t come back to us. It won’t come back to me like I’m giving it. But its what we sign on for! That self-LESS, OTHER-centric love with our babies. We literally give ourselves away and we give away our hearts over and over again without the true expectation that it will be reciprocated in kind.

Oh yes, our children love us.

But those of us who have held a baby in arms knows the love from Parent to Child is different than Child to Parent. We love our parents with our whole souls, but goodness don’t we love our children with a different place of our hearts.

At least in a marriage it’s a two-adult covenant. We stand together and say

We love each other.

For better and worse.

For flu and Hawaii.

But with our babies. Our daughters. Our sons, we simply say I love you. I love you because you are who you are. I love you because you are my gift. And that love may never be returned in the same way. In fact, it most surely won’t.

So I pull ballet buns tight and say I-love-you-dearheart in the middle of a Monday afternoon. She skips away without care and I know that this love may not be truly understood until later.

That I am hers, but she is not really mine.


  1. Bridget says

    How very true. When they’re babies and want to cling to us “forever,” we think this love will be reciprocated always. But they keep growing and moving forward (at our urging) and don’t often look back.

    Eventually it dawns on us that we’re children, too. Hopefully when this happens, we still have the opportunity to look back with a little more care and appreciation at the parents who gave us more than we knew.

  2. says

    wow…i read this & my heart stood
    true, True, TRUE!
    a marriage-love resulting in little girls & boys
    also…begets a love-for-my-child that NEVER ends.
    moms know this sooner & probably better than dads…
    or at the least…moms know it differently than dads.
    but…we must ALL learn this kind of love
    or we will die.
    this is the design of our ALWAYS loving Abba-in-the-heavens.
    He knows the true shape of our hearts & how desperately
    we ALL need this particular life-serum.
    at times, our not-so-little-ones seem to “shed” us like sunburned skin…
    then our living, beating hearts ache their way
    into an ever-deepening version of our Abba’s love for us…
    not a bad thing at all!
    just hard.
    all my love,

  3. says

    Oh, a sweet ache from this. I have just one little one, not quite two, and at thirty-one I’m just beginning this journey. I remind myself daily that she is a gift – mine to steward and bless and discipline and adore and cherish….but she belongs to Father. What a dear reminder. Thank you, Sarah.

  4. says

    In these hard days of sleepless nights and cranky afternoons and when will she ever smile for real…YES. You put words to what I am feeling and wondering at, this love that can only come from God, because I sure didn’t create it on my own!


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