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Unconditional and unconventional

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By Carolyn Risner

I am not at all the maternal type. I'm too selfish, too distant, too "suck it up and move on"-like to be called a nurturing pillar of motherhood.

And yet I have three children.

Like many of you, I grew up watching Donna Reed, Harriet Nelson and June Cleaver (in reruns, mind you) as they set the example for future generations what a woman's role was in the home.

June, with her ever-present pearls, could do all the cleaning, chores and errands, spend an afternoon playing bridge and still have freshly baked cookies for Wally and Beaver when they came home from school-and all with a smile on her perfectly made up face.

I am not June Cleaver. I'm not exactly Roseanne Barr either.

I may not vacuum in heels and pearls (well, maybe occasionally I do), but I learned the basic tenet of mothering from my own mother: to love unconditionally.

That's easy to say, but not as easy to put into practice.

You cannot say, "I will love you if you clean your room, quit biting your nails, date someone else, attend the college of my choice, stop fighting with your siblings . . ." The list is endless.

When you love unconditionally, it means just that: without conditions, in spite of everything. You learn to forgive the harsh words. You choke back tears when feelings are hurt. You put your feelings on hold and love even harder.

My children and I have had a rough road, especially after my separation from their father. They didn't understand; still don't. Harsh things were said. Estrangement followed but through the bitterness and hurt, I loved them unconditionally and knew despite what was said or done, they loved me too.

I know I am not alone. Anytime I see on the news where someone was convicted of murder, I wonder how their mother is taking it. While devastated, I am sure she is still loving her child.

When I see the girls flashing their breasts during spring break videos, I believe while most mothers are mortified, it doesn't change the fact those girls are loved.

Because despite the pain and heartache, unconditional love is the strongest emotion and it perseveres when everything else fails.

It is about acceptance and weighing the good over the bad.

Unconditional love is learned through example from generation to generation, just as I learned from my mother and she learned from hers.

No matter what disappointments come our way, we love our children through the pain and hurt and perhaps love them even more.

This weekend I will visit with my children as we celebrate Mother's Day.

We will laugh, perhaps cry and when all is said and done, we will love a lot.

We each know the others' faults, and while we may not understand what makes the others tick, we still love.

Ours is an unconventional relationship but it couldn't be anything less as I am a most unconventional mother-except when it comes to the love I have for the three biggest successes of my life: Allison, Nicholas and Spencer.