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"Exploring the Depths of Unconditional Love"

Aunt hugging her nephew at Christmas

I grew up in a typically normal Indian household where feelings weren’t spoken of. I love you wasn’t said, and we weren’t huggers. That’s ok. It's the way things were in the 80s and 90s in an Indian household.  I didn’t really know anything of love and certainly not how to express it. I knew loss though. When my Ma (Grandma) died a year before my first nephew was born (2006) that was one of the first biggest experiences of heartbreak and grief. I should add, that although my dad died when I was a small child, I did not remember this event.

I knew I loved Ma so much from the loss I felt but still couldn’t really talk about love. Everything changed in March 2006 when my oldest nephew was born. The minute I held him in my arms, looking down at his little scrunched up face and his crazy amount of hair, was when I consciously knew what love was. This was unconditional love.

He is not my child. I’ve never had children. However, I don’t think you need to have birthed a child to feel that connection. I remember the first time my nephew said I love you Massi (one of the words for aunt in Punjabi). We were sitting in the living room. It must have been winter as the fireplace was on. (My mum still has this fireplace. It stopped working for a while growing up. My mum in true Punjabi mum fashion, refused to get it fixed because she thought we would have it on all the time). Anyway, back to my nephew. I was sitting on the sofa. He was about 2. and walked over to me. He leant on my legs, looked up and said ‘’I love you Massi’’. Yes, my heart melted, and this is one of my favourite memories.

Before his sister was born, I used to think, will I love this child as much as him and have a similar relationship? Of course I did. With each arrival of niece and nephew, my heart expanded. I love them more than anything and have a great relationship with each of them. (At the time of publication I have 6 nieces and nephews and love them more than anything).

The day my oldest nephew was born, my life changed. My heart grew bigger than I ever thought it could. His presence was like a light in my life. What truly stumps me is that he still has this light within him. People love him. He has no clue how special he is. Then again, how many of us recognise our own light and know our own worth?

My handsome nephew has this ability to put people at ease and make friends with anyone. Even as a child at nursery he would always get noticed for his helpfulness. At juniors they commented in a school newsletter that he was always kind and had a smile for everyone. That moment, I was prouder of him then if he had got top marks at school. It's just in his DNA, this kindness and natural charisma. The kids these days would say ‘rizz’. That means charisma apparently.

You don’t have to be a mother to have motherly instincts.

When I became an aunt the first time, I don’t think I was in touch with my heart at all. I had a wall around my heart that was not going to come down any time soon. In fact, I didn't even know the wall was there. When I look back on my life, love and loss were tied together. I now tell my nieces and nephews I love them all the time. I hug them and show my emotions of being proud or missing them. I know our parents did the best they could with the information they had. Now I know better I do better. (Well try to, it’s a constant work in progress). I believe in showing people you love them, expressing emotions in a healthy way and hugs, always hugs. Well, if covid has taught us anything it’s how powerful and healing hugs are.


What is unconditional love?

For the rest of my life, I will continue to nurture my relationships with these children. Especially in the challenges they may face. I will be there providing a shelter in the storm and always, unconditional love.

Unconditional love for me is a mixture of kindness, patience and being firm. Yes it’s being there for someone but it’s also knowing when to say no. It’s also showing children and others that unconditional love doesn’t mean being a pushover. It means I have boundaries and showing children what boundaries look like. So, they also know what healthy love and relationships are. So, what are your thoughts on unconditional love? How would you define it?

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