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Unconditional Love

Harry Harlow

Harry Harlow

I am a fan of This American Life. Sometimes, like in the “What I Learned from TV” episode, it makes me laugh out loud. The one on Breakups two weeks ago actually made me want to sit down and have a little chat with Phil Collins (Phil Collins!)

And last week’s, which I just listened to via the free weekly podcast, slayed me. I cried twice. The theme was unconditional love, specifically parental unconditional love.

The prologue was about Harry Harlow’s experiments with monkeys demonstrating the worth of motherly love. I know it’s true, but in this age of attachment parenting it is just unfathomable to me that moms a century ago were told to not kiss or cuddle with their babies lest they ruin them. (And I’m grateful that my immigrant Bubbie either didn’t know about this advice or simply chose to ignore it.)

Act 1 is about parents’ dedication to overcoming the attachment disorder in their adopted Romanian child. I tell you, some people are made of sterner stuff than others. I realized midway through this story that I would have given up long before this woman ever considered it. But relax, the story has a happy ending.

The final act, Act 2, concerned another set of parents having to decide what to do about their disruptive, severely autistic son. It too has a happy ending, but in a very different way than the previous story did, serving as a good illustration that unconditional love doesn’t manifest the same way in all families and situations.

I recommend this episode highly. It’s sad and uplifting and generally touching. And until the new episode airs next weekend, it’s free. Check it out.

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