Billionaire Warren Buffet will turn 86 in August and is worth $66 billion. When asked what made him what he is today, he replied that it was the unconditional love he received from his father. “I knew I could always come back home.”
One might have expected his answer to be his business acumen, his savvy, his schooling, the opportunities afforded by free enterprise, even his shrewd investments.
Nope. None of the above. It was his dad.
This man of immense wealth and prestige, this larger than life investor, industrialist and philanthropist pointed to the unconditional love of his father as the single most important factor in his growth and development.
“There is no power on earth like unconditional love. And I think that if you offered that to your child, I mean, you’re 90 percent of the way home. There may be days when you don’t feel like it — it’s not uncritical love; that’s a different animal — but to know you can always come back, that is huge in life. That takes you a long, long way. And I would say that every parent out there that can extend that to their child at an early age, it’s going to make for a better human being.”
That’s really it! In spite of all the frustrations, disappointments and setbacks that our teenagers drag us through, we love them. The very power of love—of unconditional love—is that it is given freely without any expectations. There need not be any exchange, no guarantee, no promissory note, no IOU, nothing in return. Love is a feeling too big for the word.
The more conditions we attach to our loving someone, the less sure we are of our love. It’s a little like a bill in Congress. The more pork it’s wrapped in, the harder it is to get to the core of the bill’s intent. Or a contract. The more clauses it contains, the more complicated it is. Unconditional love, with no attachments, is pure in its meaning and incredibly difficult in its application.
That doesn’t mean we let our kids do everything they want. It doesn’t mean they can walk over us, trample on rules or disregard expectations. It means there is an unbreakable bond that keeps us engaged and is extremely important.
Try this little exercise. Think of all the reasons why your teenager drives you crazy. We bet you can reel them off without taking a breath. Now, describe why you love your teenager. How’s that working for you? Are the answers coming a little harder? The process is not as free-flowing as the first assignment is it? Keep at it. You’ll find the answers, though more difficult, are quite meaningful. In fact, they far outweigh the reasons your teenager drives you crazy. Or they should. The crazies are insignificant; the love is an unbreakable bond.
There is a depth to unconditional love that defies definition or description. There is a connection between parent and child that renders any tension or disagreement or exasperation as merely trivial.
Dad, when you “love your kid no matter what,” you’re looking beyond the dismissive eye rolls, deep sighs, the smart mouth and the rudeness—even, dare say it?—the piercings and tattoos. Yep, the feeling is too big for the word. Maybe for any words.