Love, Always

“Give love, in equal amounts.”

What I learned about parenting—and raising amazing kids—from a family that’s really got it right.

For Don and Dale, Alexandra Franzen’s mom and dad. Because you got it right!

Have you ever been in the presence of a family that just gets it… right?

Where the love and laughter flows, without effort?

Where the humility and respect is palpable?

When you see it, you just know:

THAT’S the real thing.

Recently, I had the privilege of meeting just such a family.

And for all the parents out there — wondering how to raise happy, healthy, amazing kids and keep the family unit strong — I wanted to share one of my biggest reflections from my time with a family who has got it going on. :)

Love, laughs & country music: How the story begins…

Not long ago, I had the privilege of meeting Don and Dale Franzen, the parents of my awesome writing coach, Alexandra. We met at a writing retreat that Alex was holding in Portland, Oregon. I was one of the participants.

Not only did Alex’s parents attend her teaching session, but they participated in the writing exercises as well. How beautiful is that? Parents learning from their adult child!

I was struck by the humility that emanated from this mom and dad, and the pride and joy that radiated from them at the same time. 

Throughout the entire weekend, I was consistently struck by the beautiful dynamic between Alex and both of her parents. The love, the laughter, the silliness, the country music blasting through her mom’s tiny iPhone speakers, the mutual respect and admiration that they expressed, for one another…

It touched my heart.

I know — what you see on the outside is not always what’s happening behind closed doors, and I imagine that this family has encountered their fair share of challenges, like any other. (Alex has instructed me to say, “OH YES. It’s true.”)

But I know the real deal when I see it — and this was the real thing.

My BIG takeaway.

Before I write an entire book about my fun visit to Oregon (did I mention the beach trip to Sauvie Island? And the orgasmic ice cream from Salt + Straw?) … here’s the big takeaway that I wanted to share.

A reminder, from my heart, for parents everywhere:

Give love, in equal amounts. Big love. Unconditional love.

And no playing favorites.

While chatting with Dale, Alex’s mom, I asked how it felt to have raised such an amazing daughter.

To my surprise, she replied, “All three of my kids are amazing.”

She went on to describe Alex’s older brother and younger sister — both very different from Alex, but special and talented in their own ways.

This floored me, because her response was so different to how I was raised.

I was a very talented girl. I excelled at ballet (and won multiple awards), as well as speech and drama, and I distinguished myself in school.

I’m a middle child, just like Alex, and I had two wonderful brothers — one older, one younger.

But if you had been chatting with my mother, you would think I was an only child.

All the fuss and attention was constantly on me. Only me. Because I was the star.

Rather than making me feel good (“Yay, me! I win mom’s attention!”) this dynamic made me feel very uneasy. It made me feel so pressured to maintain the standards of excellence that impressed everyone so much.

This made my life a very lonely place to be.

Which is why I’m issuing this reminder to parents, everywhere:

I repeat:

Give love + attention to all of your children, in equal amounts.
It is so important.

Even if one child is particularly “shiny.”

Remember that not every gift is sparkly, like gold.

Some gifts are more subtle — but just as worthy of recognition.

Give love, across the board.

And all of your kids will be better, for it.

PS. Walk over to your kids right now — or send a text, if they’re away — just to say:

“I love you. All of you. So much.”

  1. “And no playing favorites.” Sorry to say I do that sometimes … one child’s such a rebel and the other behaves so well. From now on, no favorit-ing. Thank you for what you wrote.

    • Hi Sandy: So glad you read this post. Sounds like your parenting’s is back on track. Good for you. :)

  2. This is very important. I was the “left out kid” because I kinda had two left feet. I know not to do that to my kids, but I see other moms doing it.

  3. I’d bet on it that Alex’s maternal and paternal grandparents treated her mom and dad and siblings, equally. So Alex’s folks treated her with the same equal love.

    • Hi Fred: Yes, it’s often the case that people will parent in the way that they were parented. Alternatively though, when kids grow up, they may choose to behave quite differently from how they were raised.

  4. As a parent I see how there is enough love to go around, but not if the parent is stressed. Then the “not so shinny” child can get under your skin. So I try to be mindful of my stress.

  5. My mom and older sister were best friends — and I was [sigh] “Oh, Cindy.” I remember a moment, when my 2nd daughter was young, when I was faced with the decision to choose to repeat that cycle (one daughter “good” and the other “bad”) — or choose to have a positive relationship with both daughters. I picked the second and I’m so glad. We don’t have to repeat what we were raised with. We can say, “This stops with me.”

    • Hi Cindy: Congrats on breaking the cycle. You are living proof that thoughts + habits can be changed. :)

  6. Thank you for sharing this story about my wonderful parents, Dr. Gelb!

    I love them deeply and I know they’ll be tickled pink by this piece. :)


    :: A

  7. I firmly believe that there is good in everyone. It just that sometimes, you have to look a little deeper. Okay, with some career criminals and politicians…. Sorry, it appears that I repeated myself, but I digress…. with some people, you may need a large magnifying glass and a search party, but there’s some good in there somewhere.

    • Hi Ron: I would agree. That said, how we are parented can make a huge difference in whether we make good choices or not!

  8. Thank you for the beautiful article. I don’t have children right now, but the article made me reflect on my own childhood and the wonderful image of a happy, healthy family (which it seems we don’t see often enough in media or through my own acquaintances). Thanks for sharing.

    • Hi Melinda: You’re so welcome. And thank you for your insightful comment. If we all held that image of a happy, healthy family close to our hearts and parents raised their children from that perspective, just imagine how divine our world could be. :)