As one human to another, I'd like to question you
If it takes the sun and the rain to make a tree grow,
If it takes the moon and the tide to make the sea flow,
What does it take to love a child?
Frank Sinatra asked this question some time ago, and we parents answer it every single day. I recently started a playgroup for 18 to 24 month olds, and for various reasons me and the munchkin haven't been going as much as we would like to. Nonetheless, the exercise has been good because us mummy-types got together to have a good discussion about values and objectives so that we are all of the same thinking on the broad principles.
So insofar as they can be set out, I think for the answer to Old Blue-eyes is that the 3 cornerstones are these (which is not to say that I am great in putting this into practice, but at least I write them down to know what I am aiming for!):
1) Love thyself.
Self-love does not equate to being selfish, that is an entirely different thing altogether. Self-love starts from knowing and accepting yourself, and taking responsibility for your happiness. Children, like Australians, have an innate bullshit sensor. They will ignore the verbal lesson in favour of the one that is lived. Teach a child to be generous by letting them see that you are happy to share your possessions, your money, your time. Teach a child to love and respect themselves (and you!) by mirroring that behaviour. I think one of the biggest gifts I give to Sophie is by being a working parent and NOT being guilty about that. I am walking the talk that work/life balance is a difficult but achievable state of being.
2) Set Boundaries.
Any relationship has boundaries. The difference between relationships with other adults and child-adult relationships is where the burden of setting and enforcing boundaries fall. Relationships between consenting adults can be all manner of negotiable boundaries of acceptable behaviour. When hanging out with little people, (unfortunately) one of you has to be the adult. That means being responsible enough for you and someone else much younger and weaker - that's what being a "dependant" means ...
3) Begin with the end in mind.
The end point of nurturing a little person is so that the little person becomes an adult and LEAVES you. There is no point in holding them back because you need them more than they need you. That applies to the first day of kindergarten as much as the first day of tertiary education.
Come close to me child,
I want to give you something.
The gift of knowing who you are
loving you wholly and utterly,
even if sometimes I don't like the things you do
and you make me sad, angry or just tired.
I still love you and will always do.
I can do this because I know just who I am
and I can be strong.
So strong that I know just
when to be weak
when to be meek
and when to say I am sorry.
Be whatever you want to be kid
Your parents will love you
And so will all the doggies of the neighborhood.