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What I Want My Kids to Know About Love

I remember the first time I fell in love. It was with Eric Estrada, the dark, swarthy, yet sensitive half on "CHiPs." I was 7, and he would wait for me. I was convinced he’d marry me one day. But he didn’t wait. Damn that Ponch—he broke my heart.

Of course, at that age, I knew little about romantic love and thankfully nothing yet of broken hearts. So breaking my heart meant he didn’t show up at my birthday party to give us all a ride on his motorcycle. I managed to find a way through it, however, and forgot about him the second I opened my Easy-Bake Oven.

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Eleven years later, I would experience what it really meant to fall in love. It would be with someone I met in my last months of high school—someone I thought I couldn’t be without; someone who I would marry at 22 and have a son with a few years later; someone who would remain my symbol of first love, that wide-eyed, youthful Nicholas Sparks kind of “Notebook” love, even if he later also became the symbol of heartrending pain when we both discovered that life is not perfect. Things happened, we disappointed each other, we became imperfect and we floundered until the fairy tale exploded in our dumbfounded, crestfallen faces.

After nearly self-destructing in the single scene, putting myself into stupid and even dangerous scenarios to punish myself for a failed marriage and to run away from the pain of love lost, I pulled my head out of my ass and began a long but meaningful journey to finding peace in my heart. And seven years after the fall, I found love again in a beautiful man who honored all of me. And I was better prepared to offer real love to him. We married and added a daughter to our happy family.

Now, I will never proclaim to be an expert on love. But I can say that these experiences have shaped my understanding of love. My children will no doubt have their own experiences, their own lessons on love, their journeys are theirs to have, but perhaps I can offer some insight so that they can fully appreciate the power of love and use its full effect for positive change in their lives.

1. Love yourself first.

When you love yourself, you understand that you are whole.

Accept all of who you are, even the flaws. I stopped running away from the pain of love lost, from the feeling that I was broken, and I faced myself with open arms, knowing I was really able to attract the kind of love I deserved. When you love yourself, you understand that you are whole. Once you know your worth and love who you are, you will radiate confidence and attract someone to you who sees your true worth and honors it.

2. Love is being responsible for your own happiness.

Part of the reason the marriage to my first husband failed was because I naïvely made him responsible for my happiness. Sure, your partner will make you feel happy and should want to make you feel happy, but your sense of self and source of happiness comes from you.

3. Recognize that there is always love in your life, even if it is not coming in the exact form in which you want it to come.

Love really is around you, you just have to recognize it. Sure, it may not be coming from Eric Estrada or that dream guy that seemed perfect at first but turned out to be a dick, but maybe your best friend just brought over super spicy Thai food and a buttload of kung fu movies or maybe your brother just called out of the blue to say he loved you. Be grateful for the love around you. Acknowledge it and more will come in.

4. Love can affect positive change in any relationship.

When you approach a situation with a loving intent ... love can work its magic and improve a situation.

Whether it be in romantic relationships, friendships, with family, colleagues or with the old man you sat next to on the bus for 15 minutes, love really can make things shift. When you approach a situation with a loving intent, hold no judgment, make no criticisms, love can work its magic and improve a situation. People will be open to things they were not previously open to and hearts will soften. Love is like a big magnet. The more love you send out, the more you will receive back.

5. Love is not attachment.

Love is actually the opposite of attachment and control. Love allows you to be free. And when you truly love someone else, you allow them their freedom as well. Love allows for people to be themselves.

6. Try not to waste too much time getting over someone.

That feeling of torture, the one where you can’t eat, can’t sleep, can’t even get out of bed to shower? Realize that those feelings aren’t coming from love, but self-rejection. No one else is hurting you at that moment, you are doing that to yourself. I wasted many days moping, uselessly reliving moments, feeling sorry for myself when I could have been having all those days to be present and feeling, well, not miserable.

7. Trust your heart.

Have the confidence to move on when something isn’t working out.

Trust that you are meant to feel love and peace. I believe that when you live in love, you can’t lose something that’s meant to be yours. So have the confidence to move on when something isn’t working out. If someone is not treating you the way you deserve to be treated, make the space for someone to come in that will.

8. Love is having respect.

Hold your loved ones in high esteem. Though it will sometimes be REALLY hard, don’t put them down and try not to point out their flaws. And don’t say those “oh no she didn’t” things. You can never take them back. And once respect is gone, it’s really tough to come back from that.

9. Love without regret.

Don’t let fear keep you from loving. Love hard and trust that the outcome will be for your greatest good. Don’t hold back. You may date some real numbnuts in your life, and you may find the love of your life. They will all serve as teachers. My most valuable life lessons and defining moments have been from being fearless in love. Even when it crashed and burned. I learned so much about myself from my son’s father through love and pain. To this day, I thank him for all the lessons. For all the love and all the life.

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10. You will always be loved.

You, my children, have shown me the truly limitless possibilities of love and have touched me with a love so deep I almost cannot comprehend it. Your love is the purest I’ve ever known, and I love you unconditionally, every amazing inch of you, and I always will.

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