There are thousands of songs about romantic love. Poetry, fiction and movies reflect our fascination with the heady rush of a new romance. It is considered human nature to seek out the affections of a partner. There is something within us that yearns for a powerful and passionate love.
The love we feel for our children is something that you don't hear about nearly as much. Sure, there are songs, poems and works of fiction that are centred around a parent's love for their child. Compared to the vast works on romantic love, though, there is so very little written about this pure and abiding love. I sometimes wonder why we don't speak more of our bond with our children. Is it because authors and songwriters fear boring their audiences and readers? Or is it because this love is just presumed?
I honestly don't know why parental love is so comparatively unspoken. When I had children, all previous notions of unconditional love seemed pale and pallid in the face of this astonishing, overwhelming emotion that hit me like a body blow. If anything, my love has only grown fiercer with time. I am a parent; this is how we love.
My love for Fatty is no less deep, but it is different. It is more complicated. It is more conditional. If he were to hit me, or constantly belittle me, or have affairs - my love would wilt, wither and expire. I promised to love him for better or worse, but I'm not a punching bag or a masochist. Some things are vow-breakers. So I cannot honestly say I would love him, no matter what. But my children I would love in the face of any wrongdoing - vicious cruelty or the most hideous crime. I may not like what they'd done, I may not even like my son or daughter any longer, but my love would be unwavering. It cannot be switched off or snuffed out. I know this, without question. And I have seen this love in the actions of parents the world over.
I know I've been guilty of bemoaning the challenges of parenting, and I have followed in the footsteps of many other tired parents. Yet the negative aspect of having children is so insignificant compared to the seam-bursting happiness that children bring. For not only do we love our children profoundly - our children love us unreservedly in return.
Last week, my children spent a night away from us. My mother was helping us out with childcare, and it suited her better to collect the children a day early. So I waved a cheery goodbye to my kiddies, trying not to think of the time my mother drove sedately into the side of a bus (She says she just didn't see it. I find this faintly disturbing...after all, buses are not exactly small. I should explain that this is the one and only accident that my mother has been involved in, and she is otherwise a careful driver. Nevertheless, when she's driving my kids, I suddenly recall the incident with the invisible bus!). I waited for Mum to phone me to say they'd arrived at the farm in one piece.
My dear mother phoned me on arrival, and spoke to me as you would to a fretful child - soothingly, patiently.
"They're fine, love. They're excited that we're going to have spaghetti bolognaise for dinner."
"So they're not sad? They're OK?"
"Well, Ben got a bit upset about halfway here." Mum conceded. "He started crying, and told me he wanted to go home. In fact he got quite angry when he yelled TAKE ME BACK TO MUMMY! and TURN THE CAR AROUND! and I didn't do what he asked." Her voice was fond and I knew Mum had handled this episode with her characteristic kindness and patient resolve.
"Actually, it was rather sweet", Mum continued. "He tried to persuade me to go back, telling me but I LOVE Mummy. Then he added tearfully, I love the sound of her voice."
I smiled into the phone receiver. I could hear Ben playing happily in the background, so I knew his anxiety had passed. And what a thrill it gave me to hear his words, repeated to me.
There is nothing special about my voice. It is a regular kind of voice - not especially soothing, not especially lilting or sweet. No one has ever complimented me on my voice. But that was before I became a parent. Now, my voice is beloved to my son simply because it is his mother's voice.
I am blessed beyond my wildest dreams.