The art of not leaving
True love is choosing to stay when all you want is to run away.
In an era where the knowledge of parenting experts is literally available at our finger tips, it came as a surprise that the best advice I recently received was not from an expert. It was not from a friend or a mother. It was from a novel. A work of fiction.

On page 38 of my copy of “The book thief” by Markus Zusak, I read the following:

Not-leaving: An act of trust and love, often deciphered by children.

It struck a chord. So I explored what this means.


If you ‘not-leave’, you are staying. Even when all the toys are being thrown out of the cot. Even when you receive warnings for noise pollution because your kids are screaming at the top of their lungs. Even when you wish the Earth would open up and swallow you. And sometimes this is exactly how we feel, but because we made the choice to become parents, we stay. We put the toys back in the cot. We carry on.

Does this mean that we need to be with our children every second of every day? No, it doesn't.

An act of trust and love

Not only is it not practical to be at our children's sides every moment of the day, it's not the best thing for them. Children need some independence to aid their learning. Giving kids some responsibility can improve discipline. Falling down teaches them to get up.

Not-leaving is instilling in our children the trust that we will be there when they need us. Also, when we have to put our kids in someone else's care, that we chose responsibly. Someone we trust with their safety. I was given two pieces of advice about babysitting: one, sneak out so that your sprogs don't notice you leaving and two, say good bye, give them hugs and tell them you are coming back. I know someone who followed number one. Her kid would figure out she had left and would cry ‘Mommy, Mommy’ for ages. I followed number two. Sometimes Dylan cries for a minute or two, but usually he waves and runs for the toys.

Then of course there is the second part: love. If our kids know we love them it builds their confidence and security. And a confident and secure child is a happy child.

Often deciphered by children

Children have a different way of viewing the world. For grown-ups security might mean a healthy bank balance, while kids find security in our love. Dr John Dermartini, developer of The Breakthrough Experience, stresses how important it is to take the value systems of others into account. Just because something means one thing to you, it does not necessarily mean the same to someone else.

Showering our kids with gifts or even being at their beck and call is not necessarily what will be interpreted as ‘not-leaving’. What could be? That encouraging nod when he is about to try to fit a shape into its slot. The smile you give her in return for a picture she drew for you. Wiping the tears when she scraped her knee. The big hug when you say goodbye at the nursery door and the even bigger hug when you come to fetch him.

Yes, children often decipher things differently, but by showing love and building trust they can be happy in the knowledge that we will not leave them.

What does ‘not-leaving’ mean to you?
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