#66 Sue Elvis | Live a radical life of unconditional love

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🗓️ Recorded March 22nd, 2024. 📍@ The Lovetts, Fresno, California, United States

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About this Episode 

Discover the essence of unconditional love and its profound impact on parenting and education as we welcome back Sue Elvis for another heartening conversation.

This episode peels back the layers of what it truly means to love our children without conditions, exploring the intersection of this powerful emotion with the unschooling philosophy.

Sue delves into how respecting our children's individuality and passions is not just about meeting homeschooling legalities but about nurturing their well-being and learning experiences from a place of genuine support.

We reflect on the challenges and the sometimes stark contrast between our idyllic visions of family life and the messier realities.

 Unconditional love emerges as a transformative force in our discussion, not as a passive acceptance but as an active foundation of forgiveness and growth.

 We share personal stories and insights that unpack the nuances of expressing this kind of love, even in the face of societal expectations and the unique trials parenting can bring. 

This episode promises to leave you with a newfound appreciation for the superpower of compassion within your family dynamics.

We also discuss parenting teenagers, dispelling misconceptions, and embracing their unique perspectives on the family unit.

 We underscore the importance of positivity and patience, particularly through the turbulent teen years, and the profound gratitude that comes with the privilege of nurturing the next generation.

▬ Connect with Sue Elvis  ▬
Website: https://www.sueelvis.com
Unschooling Website: https://www.storiesofanunschoolingfamily.com
Books by Sue Elvis: https://www.amazon.com/stores/Sue-Elvis/author/B00QTDRCBM
Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/stories_ofan_unschoolingfamily/
YouTube Channel:  https://www.youtube.com/@SueElvis
Podcast: https://www.storiesofanunschoolingfamily.com/my-podcasts/

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With love


Jesper Conrad 


00:00 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Today we once more have the pleasure of spending time together with Sue Elvis. Sue, thank you for finding yet another time to chat with us.

00:09 - Sue Elvis (Guest)
Oh, it's a real pleasure, Jesper and Cecilia. I really enjoyed our conversation last time and that hour it flew by, didn't it? And we had so many other things that we wanted to say, so thank you for inviting me back again perfect.

00:28 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
One of the things we have chatted about talking about is unconditional love, so let's jump into it. Love, love is a fantastic subject it, and especially the unconditional variety.

00:44 - Sue Elvis (Guest)
I think I was talking with a few people who blog and podcast maybe two or three weeks ago, and we were trying to find the defining word for the work that we share, how we would describe our blogs or podcasts in a couple of words, and mine was unconditional love and that's. It didn't start that way. I think it sort of evolved as I learned more and more about unschooling and went deeper and deeper into it, but then I found myself talking about unconditional love more and more and relating it to unschooling and, yes, my favorite topic and two of my favorite words.

01:31 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Especially combined.

01:33 - Jesper Conrad (Host)

01:34 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
When they come right after each other. Oh, they've got to go together. And they're friends yeah.

01:41 - Sue Elvis (Guest)
That's right.

01:42 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
I also think this is a great place to start, because we often talk on the podcast with experts in unschooling. You know, you walk the walk. You're many, many years into this, but our audience are more the newcomers, those who are interested, those who need to learn, those who are in the newcomers, those who are interested, those who need to learn, those who are in the beginning, and in the beginning it's all about education. All they, you know, the whole thing is oh, if we don't do the school, the curriculum, then how will they learn? And I'm, and unschooling podcasts can easily fall into this trap of talking about learning all the time, and really that's not what it's about.

02:35 - Sue Elvis (Guest)

So I think I've got a lot of posts on my blog about fulfilling homeschool registration requirements, and that's from the educational point of view.

And I think that for a lot of people they have to think about that first because it's a legal matter and it is the nuts and bolts not for everybody, but for people in Australia particularly Well, I don't know all about other countries' legal requirements. I know in the US it differs from state to state. But I think, yeah, that's at the top of a lot of people's minds is how do we satisfy that educational requirement? And I think that maybe if we didn't have those requirements, I sometimes wonder if more people would be open to the idea of unschooling, because it's rather tricky sometimes keeping education departments happy.

But once you get past that and get a system, a system, a recording system in place, I think that that, yes, push all that out of the way, concentrate on the more important things unconditional love. But I also find that unconditional love it flows into the education anyway, because if we love our kids unconditionally, we're going to be interested in the person they are and the things that interest them and, yes, we're going to value all those aspects of our kids, all their passions and interests and not try and force them to learn things that we think are important. So maybe there's an overlap there as well.

04:28 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
I think there is a very nice overlap. Additional love.

04:31 - Sue Elvis (Guest)
Yeah, it illuminates all aspects of our lives. It's there at the center, influencing our relationships, but also education, and well, anything isn't it. It's just the basic of life.

04:50 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Exactly, and that was why I thought, oh, it's going to be great to do an entire podcast on unconditional love and get over all the worries about education and talk, because this is a core. This is a centerpiece.

05:04 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
This is the ground we stand on and we need to talk about why it's so important, what it is and how we make sure that we live it and we pass the message of it so I'm just happy to have that headline today, then, then I would like us to here in the start try to, then I would like us to, here in this start, try to unwrap, uncover together what we mean about unconditional love, because each of us can have our own understanding of what do you mean about unconditional love, and I would be very happy not to start, but for one of you.

05:47 - Sue Elvis (Guest)
What is this?

05:47 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
love thing. It's weird.

05:50 - Sue Elvis (Guest)
It is, isn't it? And I think that maybe the majority of parents would say, if I said, oh, you have to, I have I don't like the word have that our children require unconditional love. That's a better way of saying it. And a lot of parents might say, oh, but I do love my kids unconditionally. How can you suggest that I don't? And that, I find, is it's sort of hard to tell people not to tell people, but to get into discussions where people might feel threatened that they don't need to hear what we're saying about unconditional love because they, of course, every parent loves their child and they feel it's unconditional. But I think that maybe kids don't always feel unconditionally loved, and that is that's the hard bit.

I've said this recently I don't know if it was last time we got together or in another discussion I was having but I had a really good conversation with my daughter Sophie. Oh, quite a few years ago. She was a teenager and she was most aghast that a lot of parents criticize their kids in public, that the words they use around their kids to other people are so hurtful. Like my child, you know, she just doesn't get on and do her work, or she's too shy or she never gets on and does her chores. She's lazy, I don't know what to do about it. And my daughter was just. She said you can't talk about kids like that to other people. They're they just. Kids deserve respect.

And also she said something about parents talk about kids as if they're problems, problems to be solved solved, instead of looking at kids with wonder and awe and really recognizing the individuality of children and just how amazing kids are and respecting their choices, so their interests. It doesn't really matter if a child's quiet, that just might be who they are and that does that. Children don't have to be the people parents think they should be. And so we got onto the topic of unconditional love and Sophie said well, it's a tricky subject to talk about, but if kids don't feel unconditionally loved, if they don't feel totally accepted for who they are, then maybe that is the problem. That parents love their kids, maybe. But the signs that they're putting out I can't think of the right word that they might not even be realizing it, but their kids are picking up signals that they're not quite acceptable the way they are, that they have to change, or that type of thing. Could you add something to that? Does that?

08:57 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
make sense. Yeah, I just felt. I interrupted you five times already within the first five minutes.

09:06 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
I said enough.

09:09 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
I think that is spot on. Lots of parents would say they love their children. All parents love their children. Of course they do. You don't have to discuss that and most would say, of course I love them unconditionally and maybe they even do.

But to pass that message is to go against the mainstream culture of how we are around children, because it is mainstream to criticize your children in public, to have you to even have the mindset that we as parents have to better them, that they are not good enough the way they are and we have to make sure they become good enough, that we have to teach them how to behave and and and and to fix their flaws and all these things. It's our job. So I also talk with a lot of parents who think that that's part of parenting. And this becomes this talk, this chatter about and around the children, where they are very much criticized and adults not even just parents, but all adults look at them with this molding eye, this how can we change this so that it becomes a little bit better or a little more right? And if? If they already are in a school system, the whole genetics of the school system is that you can do good or you can do bad. You can come up with the right answer or the wrong answer.

The whole scoring what's it called grades, you know makes this competition. You have to come out with your straight A's. Why is it only A? Why can't we have like 19 different ways of succeeding? It's like there's one. So everything they do will be evaluated almost 100% of the time by someone older than them, even the parents. I can't even begin to imagine how much harm that makes To be in that field 100% of the time. Did I get up from this chair in the right way at the right time? Saying or not saying the right thing? Someone will tell me at some point.

11:49 - Sue Elvis (Guest)
They will just stress out, saying the right thing. Someone will tell me at some point yeah, I think it's out. Yeah, kids forget, maybe get the message that they're not good enough the way they are.

11:56 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Um, yeah, it's uh, and then that I think, even if they get the message that they are good enough you know they could not be they're still being measured and a could have been a, b, this evaluation, this, oh, you did very well a grandma's birthday at that restaurant comment it comes from a point of view where you could have done wrong. It's still the evaluating mind as a parent. And you know why don't we talk about that was a fun story, uncle. This and that shared in the restaurant, remember, you know it could be other things we talk about with our children, whether they do good or bad and what can they do better next time. And it, this wholeation mindset, really goes against the message of unconditional love, because our judgment of what is happening on the inside of the parents maybe that's not a good conversation to have, but what we can talk about is actions, how we can ask the message, how we can make sure that they know.

13:12 - Sue Elvis (Guest)
I think that what is really very sad is that parents do things like make judgments or grade, not accept kids as they are. The motivation is good Everybody wants the best for their kids, so parents feel they're doing their best by pushing their kids to achieve more, by saying you're not good enough now, because you're going to be good enough, I'm going to push you. It's like the carrot and you've got to keep following the carrot, yeah.

And so what makes me feel very sad is that parents care so much about their children, and this is sometimes the motivation for doing things which harm children. But parents don't understand, if you see what I mean, that we need to talk about different approaches and listen to our kids. I think because when just talking to my daughter, sophie that time I was at the shopping center that morning, we were having coffee together and we just started an impromptu conversation, like we always do, and she was sharing some thoughts with me, and I always find it so fascinating listening to children or listening to teenagers, listening to my children in particular, because they're the ones that have taught me the most. And Sophie was sharing these thoughts about unconditional love, and I just said, oh look, when we get home we'll have to sit down and make a podcast about this, because we learn from sharing with other adults, with other unschoolers, from reading books, reading blogs, but I think we learn most about our own children by listening to our own children.

And that's the bit that many times we don't do that we'll go somewhere else to find out how to bring up our children, but we won't go to our child, that our child is sitting there wanting to tell us, oh look, this is what I'm interested in, this is what, this is the person I am, this is what I need. But we don't go to the child. We just think, oh look, I'm going to go to that expert or that book or that podcast.

15:42 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
We seek the answers on the outside, from experts.

15:47 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
We have also been taught that we can help Absolutely.

15:50 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
I, just for anybody listening, wants to say that my ideals of how to be a parent is way better than my ability to be a parent. So it's just also, when we talk about unconditional love, I can feel like I feel I practice it, or my goal is to practice unconditional love. But sometimes my reality is I love you unconditionally unless you're damn annoying, and that's just part of being human. So it's not. I just want nobody to sit there and listen to me and say, hey, get down off your high horse. Have you never shouted at your children? Yes, I have. Have you never done mistakes? Oh, yes, I have. But I try to see how I can become better at being a parent, because it's a wonderful gift to be.

But how do you love someone unconditionally? What is? What is it that we put into that word? It is that there's no conditions around. Can we dive a little deeper into what do we actually mean when we say there's no conditions around? You don't need to live up to anything. Is that what we mean with unconditional love? What? What is it?

17:14 - Sue Elvis (Guest)
well, I think about myself and for most of my life I haven't felt good enough. You know that the person I am, I haven't even known who I am, because people tell you who you are as you're growing up and you have. Your ideas about yourself are formed by other people, and I think that when we try and, as you said, yes, but I mean I make mistakes all the time too and there are days when we well, not so much now, because I've only got one child at home can yell at the dog.

But, there's a lot of stories on my blog about my days of being a dragon mother, my difficult days when I failed. So I don't think unconditional love is about being perfect. I think it's about doing our best to accept our kids and also to accept ourselves, because sometimes we can be very hard on ourselves and, I think, get wrapped up in feeling sorry for ourselves because we made a mistake and it's so hard to move on from that. We just, oh, you know, we get stuck. But a lot of it, I think, is to do with forgiveness as well, that when we make mistakes or when our children make mistakes because they're going to make mistakes, because just because we love them unconditionally doesn't mean that we love every aspect of them and their behavior all the time. I don't think that kids are learning and they're not always going to be perfectly behaved or they're not always going to be attractive to us. So we're going to have times when we're having a bad day and we clash, when we're having a bad day and we clash. But I think, at the bottom of it all, we got to forgive each other and know that it doesn't matter what we do. We're accepted, so that we don't have to be frightened that we can pick ourselves back up, knowing somebody is going to help us, pull us up and help us try again and we're going to learn from these mistakes, and I think that is as much about a part of unconditional love as is. Oh, my child is just so wonderful and I love her talents and I can see all the good things about her. Yeah, we're not all perfect, but we can help each other learn and grow and become better people.

I've just got so many stories on my blog where you know I had bad days and days when I just cringe. I look back and I think how could I have done what I did? And days where I've I don't know if it's my personality, but make one mistake and then I make two mistakes and I make three mistakes and before I know it, I'm at the bottom of this pit of misery, feeling so sorry for myself, feeling like I'm the worst mother in the world and nobody will ever want to love me again and I'm the worst wife and worst friend. Why should anybody ever want to know Sue, elvis? And then I sit there for a long time wondering how I'm ever going to get out of that pit of misery and quite often how I get out is by my family's unconditional love for me. They come along and they just say, hey, mom, you know we love you, it doesn't matter. And they put their arms around me and don't even have to say much, just hold my hand and all of a sudden, I think that unconditional love is what saves me, what it makes me feel oh look, I really I've got to be a better person. I want to be the best person I can be for the people that I love, and I think that a lot of what I've learned about unconditional love and unschooling is that unconditional love is that superpower that transforms us.

It's not about, uh, hiding people's faults by looking at people through you know, the rosy toned glasses and thinking, well, there's nothing wrong with my kids, they're absolutely perfect, there's nothing wrong with me, I'm just perfect the way I am. It's more about, um, oh, I've lost my thought there. Uh, what was I saying? Uh, it's about, yeah, it's about being with people, that we, that we all love each other unconditionally and we're all striving together as a family, knowing we're all imperfect, but that unconditional love is our superpower. With that superpower, we can help each other become better people to get where we want to go, to get through life together, and that's what. Yeah, I don't know if you have anything to add to that. I see, is it just?

22:03 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
you're just listening to add, but I am also curious what you're saying. So I think it's it's spot on. The thing you say about it's not about praising everything and loving every little aspect and believing everything is perfect and rainbows and, by the way, butterflies and unicorns that's not what it is it's. Or this holding the beautiful picture you painted there with you know, when you're in a bad spot and you made all your mistakes and you were not the great mom who shouted, maybe, or you, whatever you did, and the kids come over and they're like it's okay, it's okay, the love is still there, the unconditional love. It is what holds us together and, as you say, it's a superpower also to heal our wounds.

I know that when I'm not a good mom I would say always, but you know, no, there could be probably always it's because I have some trauma, I have some unfinished business with my past, or I have some insecurities, or I have some, I don't know, things that I don't really know and I can't manage the whole juggle of everything and it comes out on my children.

I don't have the maybe bandwidth or courage to just leave everything be and be okay with it. As you know, we are traveling, so we are more often than not in a new context and as mothers, parents we do somehow take the blame for things our children do. Our children become some sort of, they can become some sort of agents for our family or trophies, and I know that there's a high pressure on our children to behave, to walk in and out of so many different situations, always being nice, always reading the room in new cultures, with new people and new languages, to always know what is appropriate here, what is not, and it can be tempting for us to try to kind of control them. Could you please do these things, because then you know it'd be easier for me. And when they don't do the things that I think in my reading of the room or the situation or the culture, that is the right thing to do, then I can.

25:12 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
You'll judge.

25:13 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Can judge them, because I expect to be judged by the context.

And then it kind of falls apart. I'm not the perfect mom anymore, I'm not even a good mom anymore. I'm just a stressed out little bee in a bottle and and I think, what is? I mean, there's no doubt that the more we can lean into the unconditional love and let go of all of our ideas about how things should be and pass on the message of the love is there and stay in that love, the better it is on all levels of life. Basically, I would even say you know, even on the bank account, I mean I don't know. You know, even on the bank account, I mean I don't know Everything, just everything shines from there and I think we fail that. We being the parents, we fail that a lot.

Hopefully not too much, but it's hard to do, it's hard to navigate it and I'm sure that I know that at the beginning of my path as a parent it was way harder because I was part of mainstream or I was closer to being part of mainstream than I am now. I was closer to being part of mainstream than I am now and it's so tempting to do these judgmental things, to have these ideas about how things should be and how children should be and how the world should look and then try to mold the child into that, whereas if I put myself at the point where the love is unconditional you can be whoever you are and I love you no matter what and these little things are just little ripples on the surface of a big pool of love, then I can talk about it with my children and with my husband. What do we do about this specific thing that is not exactly balanced right now. How can we navigate? I'm coming up with something fictional now, you know. How can we navigate that this child can't read? Is that fine, or is it not?

The child is now 12? Or how can we navigate that this child refuses to wear shoes? How do we navigate that? Because in some situations it's kind of the problem. I was in an aircraft once with one of our children who refused to wear shoes and this specific maybe it was the airport, maybe it was the airline, but it was illegal to enter the aircraft without shoes, shoes. So there I was, at the door with everyone behind me and the backpacks and all the other kids and everyone behind me, everyone behind me, feeling getting louder and louder.

I was everyone behind me, you got a little stressed out yeah, I started to and this child and shoes just didn't combine and I was trying with the air, the personnel. Can I carry my child onto this aircraft? Would that be okay without shoes? It was like a seven-year-old, or can I man? I'm not sure. I handled that situation very nicely. I'm thankful I forgot how I got over it. We got on the plane somehow.

But if at least I know that pushing the shoes on the child shouldn't be me telling the child that it should wear shoes and I know better and everyone knows and you should and this is annoying and telling the people around me my kid is so annoying. Yeah, if it comes from, I love you and I respect you hate wearing those shoes. Could you please do it for nine minutes until we sit down. Then everything changed. Everything changes, as you say, it's a superpower. Everything changes in the relation, in the space around me and in the child's perception of that shoe problem. Because it's not about not seeing the child, it's not about judgment, it's not about trying to mold anyone, it's about getting on that plane. That's all it's about.

And I think for me it was a quite long journey to learn, to walk through a lot of specific situations where I didn't express unconditional love, I just told my kids what to do, or I got annoyed, or I got stressed out with all the people behind me, all these things that the pressure from outside which can also be the pressure from outside to even talk about our children this way there's a lot of mumbling in the shadows like teenage teenagers are annoying or toddlers are so hard. You know you hate them when they're two years old because that's such a struggle and all these things people say and the kids hear that even if they do, even if we're talking about in general terms, not specific terms, and we shouldn't, we shouldn't, we shouldn't join that choir.

31:04 - Sue Elvis (Guest)
No, it's like it's the parents against the child or the children, that we're not together, that we're on different sides, and that sets us up for the battles and things. But yeah, I wonder sometimes, when all those memes go around about teenagers and it's so harmful, but parents just say, oh look, we're having a laugh, it's just a bit of fun. And then I feel like a real party pooper. You know, I think I say I don't think it's fun and people look at me as if I'm too serious, that look, just lighten up a little, it's only a bit of fun. But those sort of things go deep, don't they? They are the surface. They show what's deep within us as a society. But if we can laugh about those things, there must be a cause somewhere there. It's because we don't accept and respect our teens or we look at them like they're going to be a problem. Otherwise it wouldn't be funny because nobody would uh what? Why say it's not funny, but why uh it?

just wouldn't people wouldn't, understand unless there was a problem, unless that this is what they believe deep down, that teens?

32:23 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
are a problem if we should talk about the teenagers, because they get a lot of not love from the adults and I mean we say maybe they're lazy, but really they're not lazy. They have a brain under construction. They need a lot of sleep. They have an enormous process going on on the inside. It's huge. They don't even know themselves how huge it is. So that takes what 95 of their bandwidth, and our job is to hold that space, to just leave it be. If they need to sleep 14 hours, let them sleep 14 hours. You know what? I changed their diapers. I can do the dishes once more, even though it might be their chore or whatever. It's not.

There's so much complaining around the adults. They sound like children really and now I'm talking bad about children, because they're not Children are not that bad. But parents complain, they complain they have to do the laundry, or they complain the children come home late, or they complain that you give instructings for something, and then the children, the teenage children, forget. No wonder they forget there is so much going on in there, so much else going on in there. It's not that they're not trying to focus, but it's not. It's not the majorities of what's happening. So they actually these jokes.

Either the adults passing them around are stupid because they don't know what's going on when you're a teenager, or they're disrespectful. They don't respect what's going on for the teenagers, and I simply don't understand how we can bring children into this world with the miracle that that is. We all remember the day they came right with you know tears coming out of our eyes and and coach them, help them and support them until they are, let's say, 15, and then suddenly, now it's too much. Now you can do your own dishes. Now I'm not picking up after you. Now I'm not helping you. Now I'm not paying for you anymore. Now. Now I'm just being annoyed. Why not just keep doing the job? You're still the parent, I I? I think that it's so skewed and I don't know.

34:57 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
But there's also I. I remember before we had teenagers I talked with some parents about how I dreaded the day our now grown up would move away from home, and then the standard joke was oh, the teenage years will solve that problem. You won't be. You will be happy when they leave home. And I wasn't. But but for two weeks but it's, it's the standard joke. But I would love to Sue and Cecilia. You want to say something? No, no, it's, it's the standard joke.

Um, but I would love to sue and cecilia um, you want to say something, no, no, it's more like uh, I have, I have, I have this male brain and I'm like so what is this thing called love and and how do I practice this thing called unconditional love something?

I've got something for you here? No, no, let me finish my question. No, but I'm also. You know, love is also a choice, or in some sense in my world, I think that in marriage you choose a partner and you have chosen that, and then that is what you do. I'm very, on some ways, very maybe manly in my way of being.

36:08 - Sue Elvis (Guest)
It's not so much a feeling, is it? It's not so much a feeling as an action, so that, as you were saying, cecilia, when we love unconditionally, we might be happy to pick up after our teenagers. It's not just sitting back and feeling good about oh look, I've got teenagers. I think it's very sad that teenagers are looked on as a problem instead of as a pleasure and a delight, because while people are looking at that teenagers as a problem, they're missing out. And my teenagers it's been some of the best years. I'm sure yours as well. Yeah, I love it. I love it. I just love my well.

36:53 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
I haven't got. It's the best. It's like having another adult in the house. It's someone to talk. They have such interesting perspectives and they become so. It's just amazing. I think so too.

37:08 - Sue Elvis (Guest)
I haven't got any teenagers anymore because my youngest turned 20 at the beginning of the year, but I thought what a milestone that I loved the teenage years and I think maybe we set ourselves up for problems by assuming there's going to be a problem instead of looking at the people in front of us and also doing what you said, cecilia, about understanding teenagers needs needs for more sleep, needs for time to process things, needs they have, a need to have a safe space to make mistakes in as well and to know that they'll still be loved. Uh, yeah, just um, teenagers, just great people. And we should have more memes going around about countercultural words, about how I love my teenager, yeah. But I also think there are days when like when you were saying about being in the queue getting on the plane, and you just want your kids to do what you want them to do right there. There's some days when you're overtired, when you're feeling overwhelmed, when things aren't going right for the parent, and, yeah, just think, just do it, just do it. I haven't got the patience or the energy today, and then we fall and we do things that later we think, oh, I wish I'd handled that better, and that's the times. I think that our kids will come because we help them when they needed help, they'll come and help us. So, instead of judging us, I've had times that my kids have just taken me by the hand and led me to the living room, put me down, you know, push me onto the chair and said you sit there, mom, I'll go get you a glass of wine. And instead of like, I think parents are too quick to punish when kids don't behave as they want. They have as parents want them to.

And I've been pondering how, at the times when we appear to be the most unlovable, when we're not behaving as we best could, those are the times when we really need extra love. We don't need punishments, we don't need to be criticized, we don't need to be told oh mom, you did this wrong and you did that wrong. How could you have done that? We just need people to give us love, to push us down onto the sofa, hand us that glass of wine and say hey, it's going to be all right, mom, I'll look after you, because we're in the habit of looking after our children and that's how they've learnt. They've learnt from our example that this is the way we treat each other, and we don't have to be perfect all the time, we just have to do our best and to forgive each other. And we don't have to be perfect all the time, we just have to do our best and to forgive each other and to help.

40:08 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
So that's what I think a lot we can. We can ask for that forgiveness when we make those mistakes. It's, it's a very I mean it's always better to not make the mistake to begin with. But really, if we make a mistake and we realize we made a mistake, we can just talk to our kids about it, go back and say I slipped there, I did things I shouldn't have done, I said things I shouldn't have said, I felt pushed by whatever inner triggers or outer circumstances and and and it happened around you, it happened to you and I'm sorry about that.

We can own it when we make mistakes, and we can. We can talk to our kids about the mistakes and we can also express, maybe especially if they are younger that I know that might have made you feel that I judged you or I pushed you or I didn't understand how much you hate those shoes or whatever it is. I think it's a very good idea to come out of our corners when we make mistakes and go back and just solve the problem and talk about it, maybe not overdoing it, but but it's, it's not, it's not hard to do, to just to just, you know, say I'm sorry it's actually not, and it's the right thing to do, even with smaller children, and I'm not.

We're not answering your question no, not at all.

41:45 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
The double question what is love and how do I actually practice unconditional?

41:53 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
love, say something about that one yeah because you just said to a friend a few hours ago how you get annoyed when people are sick, when I'm sad yes, so there's an opportunity for growth right there.

42:07 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Absolutely. That's what I said.

42:09 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
That was why I joked about it and I remember when the kids were smaller, if they hurt themselves, I was also.

42:16 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
I hated that you got angry with them.

42:18 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Yeah, because you hate it when they hurt themselves. Yeah.

42:22 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
It's a weird, weird reaction.

42:24 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
It never happened, so you think it's stupid that they even got up on that chair that they fell from and you start, you react with anger.

42:33 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Absolutely, and I worked with that. But it was fun to see where it comes from. It comes from a wish of them not hurting themselves and then, instead of meeting them with an embrace, it triggered something in me and we can probably some past traumas or whatever. Whatever it was that it did is just I got so super annoyed when they hurt themselves because I was afraid that they hurt themselves really badly or could have hurt themselves more badly. It was not what they needed. Neither do my wife needs when she is sad or go into a weird mode that I get annoyed by it. I should, should, and it's working on becoming even more rounding in my my love where it's like, okay, let's give you the space and then we can always always grow afterwards, but it's, it's so recognizing your own triggers is a way to avoid making this kind of mistakes, where you and our kids.

43:33 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
They do trigger us, and it's an amazing learning journey to have children, because you get to know all your trigger points, and those trigger points are things that we need to work through to become even more ourselves. Really yeah, so maybe that's scars that need a little cream so maybe that's a suggestion.

43:54 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
if people who are listening to this say so. How can I be better as practicing unconditional love? And it's also hard to question yourself, I think, to ask yourself oh, am I a shitty dad, am I shitty mom? Could it be better giving unconditional love? How do I give it? How do I find myself? How do I catch myself sometimes not being there? How could I have reacted? Instead, it is because we are also our children's best bet, so we should also be afraid not to judge ourselves too hard. But where do we find the areas to grow? Maybe it is the trigger points, when we see we get triggered.

We have to get to know ourselves don't we.

44:40 - Sue Elvis (Guest)
We can't really love other people unconditionally without examining who we are and getting to know ourselves, and that is a lifelong journey, but it's also one I think I started at the beginning saying a lot of us don't know ourselves and a lot of the. You were talking, Cecilia, about hurts, and sometimes it can be hard facing those hurts and wondering why we have those triggers and we don't always, I think, understand our reactions. We sometimes blame our kids for things that aren't their fault, because we don't want to admit something about ourselves or we don't even understand something about ourselves, that it's sometimes easier just to blame our kids for our bad mood than it is to work out exactly what is wrong with us and then admit that, and that can involve a lot of self-examination. Not that I think that we should just get bogged down in ourselves, but we do have to face sometimes a lot of hurt that maybe we suffered if we want to give unconditional love to our kids and not repeat what was given to us.

45:56 - Jesper Conrad (Host)

45:57 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
And also, I think at the same time this is important we can't get too get too, as you said, self-absorbed. We have to get over ourselves and we also have to get over the pressure from outside of being the mainstream parent criticizing, pushing, having agendas, talking behind their backs, all these things. We have to show up as good parents, even if we don't really know what we're doing. And I think I mean, if you listen to this podcast now, the idea is out there in your mind that maybe you should stop and podcast now. The idea is out there in your mind that maybe you should stop and think am I criticizing, am I holding a space for love, or am I just being part of that choir with the memes about the teenagers? This is not fun and I'm not perfect.

Right after this conversation, I'm getting up talking to my daughter because I just realized a few things. I should have done very much better the past few days. As we're having this conversation. I think we, we all, we can all grow in this all the time, but at the very least, it's not hard to try, and if the children are teenagers, it's not hard to try, and if the children are teenagers, it's not hard to just talk to them about this idea, explore it with them. What do they feel? Do they feel they have a criticizing, judging parent? Or can they feel the unconditional love that we all think we have it? But how good are we at expressing them it? How good are we at making it? The environment? It's not like a little drop of unconditional love here and there. It's the house we live in, it's the ground we walk on, because that's different from feeling it now and then.

47:59 - Sue Elvis (Guest)
Maybe we can see how well we're doing by the way our family interacts together and how our children, what our children are picking up and how they're reacting to us around, as it's not just us and the children, but they're they're going to reflect. I sometimes think that parents are very quick to say such things as remember, you are a reflection of your family, do not do anything that will bring shame upon us. That's a very common thing people parents say, and I think what would be better is to think about our children being a reflection yes, a reflection of our love. Do they reflect our love? Not, do they reflect it? Did not does it, which is the. The reason that they should be a reflection of us is different, not to so that they don't cause us any shame, but we want our children to reflect the love that we're showing them. Uh, it's, yeah.

I think that unconditional love is just at the foundation of all of us and we, a lot of people, don't have never felt that way before and it causes problems when they go out into the world, and also, I think that a lot of children I have said this a couple of times I have. I found it hard to get to know myself. I was always told who I was, and. But that's what we can do for our kids, isn't it? We can give them that space to find out who they are, not imposing our opinions upon them, but listening. Uh, not making them behave in a certain way to earn our love, but give them that unconditional love which allows them to be who they are warts and all. They're not going to be perfect, but they can get a better idea of who they are as they're growing up. And, of course, they're not going to know themselves perfectly. They were all we all. It's a continual process, but, um well, I think that's.

50:13 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
At least they don't have to peel off the layers of that other people put on them. Yeah, exactly, avoid that and at least they can. They can walk through life, maybe with a little more confidence, a little more I'm okay. I'm okay whatever. I'm okay and we're okay, and I have someone, several people in my life that will always be there and always support me in whatever way they can. This feeling that life carries you because there is love, is a, is a game changer. If you have it, whether you have it or don't have it, is is really a game changer for how much you can well, I'm not even going to say achieve, because that would be so wrong. It's not about what we achieve, but how, how we carry ourselves through this life maybe how well we love, the love being our motivation for what we do.

51:17 - Sue Elvis (Guest)
I think we all want to be loved, don't we? And, uh, we all want to feel that we're worthy of love and that we're good enough to be loved, and that um many children have felt that it's a parenting technique withdraw the love so the child feels bad and feels a lack, and they'll do what you want so that the love returns, because we have this tremendous need for love. And how, yeah, that's used as a parenting technique.

All the time, all the time. But it's just so sad, isn't it, that we have to earn that love and never be quite sure that we are loved, because the next time we might make a mistake we're not confident that we're going to continue being loved. We know that that love will be withdrawn. It's not permanent, and I think our kids, all of us, need to know we're going to be loved regardless of what we do. And then, as we've already said about that, love is the superpower it will make us. It will just maybe dissolve our flaws away, make us more loving ourselves. I don't think that it's true.

When parent I did read, it was a parenting. I'm not sure where I read it, but it's on my blog. I quoted, quoted it and I put a link to the article. And this parenting expert said that our children need to learn good behavior, what's right and what's wrong, by experiencing conditional love. And oh, I just want to jump up and down and say no, no, no, no, don't do that. And oh, I just want to jump up and down and say no, no, no, no, no, don't do that.

It's the unconditional love which will teach our children right from wrong and they're not going to think, oh look, I'll be loved regardless. And I think that's a fallacy that is so common that parents get afraid to love their kids unconditionally because they say, well, look, my um, my, I love my child makes a mistake, and then they'll know that I'll keep loving regardless, even if they make mistakes. So they're going to keep on doing whatever they want to do, they, they're not going to be worried about doing the right thing, um, because they'll know that, oh look, they'll stay out too late and they come home and we'll still love them, or they won't do their chores and we'll still love them, or whatever. And I don't think it works that way. And I think, like a lot of things from the outside that look sensible and you view them from the outside and you say this is the way it works, but when you experience it and see it from the inside, you realize that that's not what happens at all.

It's the unconditional love that changes us and we don't say, oh look, she'll love me regardless, so I'm going to do whatever I like, I'm just going to be a lazy, self-centered, self-focused person, I'll be loved. And it doesn't do that for me. I've experienced it so much that when I'm just loved through all my mistakes and all my ups and downs. All I ever say at the end is oh look, I want to be better. I want to be worthy of the love that I'm being shown, and I think that happens with our kids.

54:48 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Of course it does, and I also want to add to it that the mistake doesn't cease to be a mistake Just because someone around you loves you. It's still a mistake. I mean so if there is the picking up laundry from all over the house, even though you're trying to explain how a basket works, we can do that with love. Just keep picking it up, keep washing it and putting it back. But we can also, at the same time, have a conversation about there is my time and there is your time, and my time to cook a brownie is now going into picking up laundry from the floor. So if you want a dessert, I'm going to need to have that half hour. That is a respectful conversation to have around.

Let's say chores or mistakes like coming home too late or, you know, promise something and you fail to do it. I can react to that with love and talk about it as a mistake or as something that is maybe not right to do. And I will also say about right and wrong and how we teach children right and wrong. Hopefully, we teach children to find out what is right and wrong. I don't want my children to do the right thing because they are afraid of me. I want them to do the right thing because they believe it's right. Yeah, so this technique of teaching with love and withdrawal of love wouldn't be teaching. We have also never had chores.

We have never had the bribing system that every time you empty the dishwasher, I'll give you five dollars or whatever, you get a golden star something like that, because I don't want my children to participate in the, in the practical life of of navigating, all the picking up and the being a family practical elements of being a family. I don't want them to do their part if they don't believe it's their part. I don't want them to do it because they're paid for it or threatened into it or somehow earning computer time screen time things if they want to participate because they see the point.

That's the kind of participation that I want to teach them. So I don't see how that technique, even if I wanted to use it what kind of success is that? You get puppets and you have strings you can pull and strings can be cut of those strings but it takes so long time to see.

57:56 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
They remember all those hours we we talked about it because I came from a different background with chores in different ways, so we had so many hours of talking in between ourselves. And it is way faster to order people to do stuff than to show them the sensibility of participating in the family. And I'm not saying the faster version is the good version. I'm just saying I understand that people can see it as a shortcut to get things done, even though it can be harmful for the parent-child relationship if it's stuff are done through orders instead of through understanding of the family unit. But some people maybe don't feel they have the time to all those conversations we have had with our children about what it takes to be a family.

58:55 - Sue Elvis (Guest)
Do you think our actions speak louder than our words? We definitely connect and we definitely have the discussions, but it's when we get up and we're tired and we still contribute towards the chores ourselves and that our kids learn that that is the right thing to do for people you love is to get up and help and that, for example, my husband, who's a school teacher and he has busy days and everybody always says he's a school teacher gets home early and all that, but he works a lot more hours than he ever did when he was in business. But he gets home and he's done this for a number of years when we had loads of children at home and he would always wash the dishes after dinner. It didn't matter that he just got through the door, we'd had our dinner. He would always get up and wash the dishes. Even though we have had lots of children in the house, it't been their chore and I think that his example taught my kids about generous love, about we don't just say we love, we show people we love, we get up when we're tired and we do things, but we also reflect that back in our kids, like if one of our kids is a bit out of sorts, or had a bad day at work, or it's just overtired herself his self. Then we'll say things like or we did say because I only got one child at home now, but it was common for one of us to automatically say, look, you go and have a shower, you go sit in bath, you go and sit down with a book, we'll make you a cup of tea, you're tired and to take over that person's chores. And so it's a reciprocal thing that you learn to be considerate and loving and generous with your time and your effort for everybody in the family. It doesn't matter whether you're the parent or you're the child, you're all treated the same. So you work together as that team and, yeah, there's times where we fail. You come home and you say, oh look, I had a really bad day. And you yell at somebody and just say do it, do it, do it. I don't want to, the mess is just bothering me.

But as the norm, I think that we can get to a stage where it's hard work on the parents. I think it's. Sometimes it sounds like easier to tell kids what to do, but it's not really easier because you've got to make them do it and it's harder sometimes to put our tiredness aside, our own feelings aside, and to get in there and help our kids and to show them what it's all about to be a family. And yeah, sometimes we have to be.

A lot is asked of us as parents. Parenting isn't easy. Parents is it's parenting isn't easy. Is it that we have to be superhuman to be a parent and we're going to fail? But it doesn't stop us having to strive for that, that this should be our goal, even if we fail continuously. We've got to pick ourselves back up. This is what we want, the ideal, this is what's the right thing to do. Uh, but yeah, just just was thinking.

One day I was about we were talking earlier about that feeling you have when you see your newborn child and you love them unconditionally, and you even see your first child, you think, wow, you know this is and you don't know the work and the problems and what you're going to have to give all those years. You know, I've been a parent for 30 odd years and I thought it's a good job. I didn't know how hard this was going to be, because I wouldn't, you know, I wouldn't have jumped in with both feet so quick. Well, I probably would have, because love does that to you, doesn't it? It doesn't say hide the problems, but it's irrelevant what the problems are going to be if you love, but it's totally worth it.

01:03:08 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Oh yeah, exactly. That's how big love is. Exactly, it's totally worth it. It's hard work and it never, ever stops no and we keep.

I mean, I think I've got it, man, I nailed it, I know how to do it now and then I make mistakes over and over and I have to mend the damage that I make and I I still have to navigate how to handle all the practical sides of it. And it's like running alongside a train just trying to keep up and you can't make that train slow down just for a little while so you can sort of, you know, catch your breath. It's, it's, but that's what it is. That's what it is. We brought these kids into the world. There's no putting them back, so we just have to show up and do it. It's no more whining.

I also feel that some of the critique I hear on the parents side of the children sometimes it's whining really. I mean, okay, you have a few children. Yes, you have to cook for them. Yes, you have to do that every day. Yes, you have to do that every day for about 20 years. Suck it up and do it. It's I. I get annoyed with this. Yeah, that's, that's the job. And yes, you have to provide clean clothes, clean and warm bed, nutrients and and love. That's your job. And sometimes, well, yeah, you cannot get any sleep because you have a toddler and you have a teenager and maybe something in between, and the window of silence is about three and a half hours consistently every day, which is maybe a third of what you actually need. You can whine, but it is what it is. Suck it up and do it. I. I think this oh, the teenagers are so lazy, or they're so annoying and or why don't they do the dishes? Really, it's not their dishes. They will do a lot of dishes when they have children.

01:05:22 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
I think people forget how beautiful a gift it is to become a parent. I mean, it is just so awesome.

01:05:32 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
But you do become a straw man of the mainstream society.

01:05:36 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
That's the problem, of course.

01:05:38 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
These of the school. You have to enforce their rules, their norms, their homework, all their BS.

01:05:46 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
And it's easy to buy into the overall story. I see it. But being the parent of a human being is just so fantastic and I mean I'm super grateful to be alive and it's just a really good gift to be alive and then to have the honor to nourish for and care for other human beings and bring them into this world.

01:06:13 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
What a rush, I mean it's super cool and to have someone to share it with oh yeah that's what love is. I mean, yeah, imagine you had no one to love. Maybe it doesn't matter so much how we can define. It matters a lot how we can express it and and it matters a lot that we have someone who are willing to receive our love. Imagine being alone.

01:06:37 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Yeah, it takes me back to Tenerife where we met the big brother of a friend. He hosted us for some days and we had some talks and he had been single for some time after a divorce and was sad about it, and we talked about how that kind of life was and he said one thing that almost makes me cry. It does make me cry, he said. He said sunsets are so much more beautiful when you have someone to share them with.

01:07:09 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
And I just well, you have your definition of love.

01:07:13 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Yeah, yeah I mean life is to be shared. We watched a romantic movie yesterday and me and my stop, we cried half of it.

01:07:30 - Sue Elvis (Guest)
It is it is our motivation. Love isn't it. It gets us through all the hard times. It doesn't mean that life is going to be easy because we love. I think maybe it's even going to be harder because we love, because we want to love as well as we can. And that takes a lot of effort and it involves a lot of heartbreak sometimes and difficulties and working through challenges and caring about people. But, yeah, it's um grateful I've got people to love and people who love me, and isn't that something? Sometimes you think, uh, we might think about people that we think are unlovable, or our kids are lazy or they're not, they're causing, maybe, problems, and I sometimes flip that around and think but somebody loves me, somebody accepts me as I am, and my children aren't coming to me and saying, oh mom, you're a terrible mother and I wish you were this and I wish you were that they love me as I am.

01:08:30 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
Imagine if they should point out all the mistakes and errors we do in our life, as we, as parents, from time to time have done with them. Oh, I would be a wreck if people all the time pointed out my errors. I know them.

01:08:46 - Sue Elvis (Guest)
And I try to work on them. What if our kids? We heard our kids talking about us to their friends, about how terrible a parent we are and we should be this way and should be that way. And it is useful, I think, sometimes to get down off our parenting pedestal and to think about how we would like to be treated and how our kids actually treat us, that love that they show us.

I had one day a few years ago it was Mother's Day which was terrible. I don't know what was wrong. It was a hard time. I was going through a difficult time. Maybe I was overtired, I don't know. I got up on Mother's Day and I just burst into tears and said I don't want to be a mother anymore. And you know my kids. Instead of saying something like, oh, aren't we good enough? And why wouldn't you want to love us? And yeah, aren't you glad you've got us, they just, they just hugged me and said it's all right, mom. And I looked at them and they're just the love in their eyes. And I looked at them and they're just the love in their eyes and I just thought I am so blessed to have the love of these children. What am I complaining about yeah, I'm having a difficult day, but I'll go through all this a million times over because of that love that I have from my family.

01:10:13 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
It is all you need. Yeah, I mean, the Beatles wrote a song about it all around us also it's and it's all around, yeah, and maybe it's all that is real and maybe, if we can define a god, it would be love. I, I think it's. It's so when you ask how can we, what is it and how, do you do it? Yes, I need a plan here give you a manual about how to do it.

I'm pretty sure you know what it is so there is nothing more important than that end of story. There is nothing more important than that End of story. There is nothing more important than that, and therefore, there is nothing more important as a parent than to make sure that we can pass on that unconditional love. I talked about the clean food, or what was it? Warm bed food. Yes, there are some basic needs, but, but really, if we want to work on something, this is where this is where the biggest impact is. Are we sure, are we dead sure, that we're passing this message on in in a in a good way, and if we make any mistakes or we have any triggers or we we have any things we need to work on, we should start working on those things yesterday, because this is the important part maybe like parenting, uh, and education, everything.

01:11:52 - Sue Elvis (Guest)
There's a lot of decisions. We not always feel confident in what we're doing, and should we do this and should we do that, and someone's got this opinion and someone's got that opinion and it is very difficult to navigate our way through. But if we just have that unconditional love as our guiding light, then we can make all our decisions. Does it match up to unconditional love and choose the pathway of love every time? And I think maybe that's how to make, I say, make parenting easy. At least we know what we need to do. Put it that way Doing it is a hard thing.

But it makes it easier to decide what we're going to do. We're going to love unconditionally. This is what I need to do.

01:12:41 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
If I'm going to do that, I must not do this, and then that's yeah we had, was it Gordon who said recently on the podcast it might not be easy, but it's simple. Yes, I think that was very clear. He talked about something else, kind of the same. It's the same thing with unconditional love. It's a pretty simple rule to go by. Simple focus love it it's. It's a pretty simple rule to go by simple focus. Might not be easy to execute it all the time, but that's the, that's the golden standard, that's what we're aiming for exactly.

01:13:26 - Sue Elvis (Guest)
The principle is simple.

01:13:28 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
The execution can seem a bit difficult sometimes oh, yes, and we, we try to do better every, every day. It is about time is running. Yeah, we could talk about love for a lot longer, but I would like to round off the episode and and to all the people listening uh, then, um, if you haven't heard the other episode we did with sue elvish, you should go hear it. And that one she talks also about how you, sue, can help people, what it is you have to offer to the world. Um, and also, um, our podcast is available on all the big platforms and on youtube, so if you're watching it or wherever you're listening to it, we would love to hear from you. Please send a note and talk about love. And, sue, it is time we should say goodbye.

01:14:22 - Sue Elvis (Guest)
Oh well, it's been a real pleasure talking about my favorite subject with you and Cecilia. I'm just grateful for the opportunity to come on your podcast and to talk about unconditional love.

01:14:35 - Cecilie Conrad (Host)
Thank you it's been lovely it has been.

01:14:39 - Jesper Conrad (Host)
It has been lovely. Thanks a lot for your time, sue thank you, jesper, thank you.


#65 Sue Elvis | Stories of an Unschooling Family
#67 Laura Grace Weldon | Free Range Learning


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