10/06/2015 01:00 EDT | Updated 10/06/2016 05:12 EDT

7 Things My Children Have Taught Me About Love

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People always say that they never knew what love was until they had children. Before having kids of my own, I assumed that this phrase referenced the amazing, unconditional love a mother has for her progeny, a bottomless supply required to overcome challenges such as poop-smeared walls and 24+ hours of labor.

Now that I do have children, I realize that I was completely wrong. Of course I've discovered my own well of blind love that bubbles over when I see my babies. But truth be told, it isn't that different from the feelings required to stay married to my husband even though he never replaces the toilet paper roll. What kids actually teach you is how much the people in your life love you. Here are seven things my children have taught me about love:

1. The depth of my mother's love for me. Sometime around night 48 of sleep deprivation, as a I stood rocking my crying baby in my arms, I had the stark realization that my own mother had done this same thing for me years before. Only now can I understand the sacrifices she made, the love she poured onto me and the absolute gift of her time, energy and attention I still receive.

2. The real strength of the father/daughter bond. I can't watch my husband walk around in headbands and hair clips without thinking back on all the times my father did the same for me. Looking at him, I understand how ridiculous my father must have felt and how his love for me helped him overcome any qualms about embracing his feminine side regardless of who was around to see him.

3. The world through my sister's eyes. When my younger daughter was a few months old, an amazing thing happened. She discovered she had an older sister. We would sit back in awe as we watched her little eyes track every movement her big sister made. They are four and six now and things haven't changed at all. Once upon a time, our younger siblings stared at me and my husband the same way. Incredible!

4. Sisterhood is the unbreakable bond. My girls are the best friends in the whole world, even when they aren't. Heaven help any bigger kid that tries to push one around, they will soon discover what sisterhood really means. Watching them stand side-by-side in the face of life's little challenges is a daily reminder of just why I still need my own sister in my life.

5. Friendship without boundaries. I used to think that holding my hair while I puked was the ultimate sign of friendship. Now I know that's nothing compared to the love required for someone to voluntarily take two extra toddlers out to dinner so I can have a break. This round is on me, ladies!

6. What blind, passionate love really is. It is easy for your spouse to be madly in love with you when you get a chance to shower every day. It becomes an accomplishment when, despite watching you poop during labour, seeing a kid barf down the front of your bra or noticing that you've had on the same pair of yoga pants for 13 days in a row, he still gooses you on the stairwell and goes cross-eyed when you take off your top.

Last, but not least, is what my girls have taught me about my love for others. The two of them and their father, my own sister, mother and father, and all the incredible people who shore me up when I start to fall. I never knew what love was until I had children and I'm looking forward to learning from them for years and years to come.


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