“Mom, what are you getting us for Valentine’s Day?” Hmm. Looks like my simple past kindness has produced the response that my children are EXPECTING me to get them something for Valentine’s Day.
When I was a kid, Valentine’s Day was celebrated more between my peers and myself – not so much a parental/child thing. Though each Valentine’s Day, my grandmother would send a small card in the mail with a $5.00 bill inside. I remember really looking forward to that token. No one else ever did that – it was her special treat that she gave. To this day, I miss going to the mailbox and finding that card.
I remember that my mother may have put a small bottle of Love’s Baby Soft on my desk pad or a package of my favorite gum…something small – a trinket really – but it was never something that I EXPECTED or asked about. It wasn’t wrapped or packaged. It was nice to think that she thought of me – but I certainly never viewed it as something that she was required to do to celebrate the holiday. I was grateful for the thought.
Valentine’s Day evolved through my childhood – parties at school making cupcakes, exchanging classroom Valentines, and playing silly games grew into middle school dances, small boxes of chocolates from boyfriends, small stuffed animals from friends. During high school, flowers from boyfriends and dinner dates became appropriate Valentine’s Day responses. Not once during all of those years did I believe that my parents were my “Valentines”.
My mother and father were each other’s Valentines. That was my greatest blessing. They never had a big date night. There was a simple exchange privately of cards between them that would sit on their dressers for a few days. I remember seeing my father’s scribble of “I love you, Steve” inside of the card – I remember feeling the sweetness of the subtleness of it all. My mother would fix my father’s favorite dinner as her Valentine gift to him. We would eat as a family but they appreciated the other’s love in such a way that all of the pomp and circumstance of Valentine’s Day was unnecessary.
I remember thinking that was the kind of Valentine’s Day gift I wanted one day. From the one who loved me day in and day out not needing some special calendar holiday to dictate that that was the day to demand some sort of over the top display of love. Watching that exchange between my parents, reminded me what Valentine’s Day was meant to be about. I was grateful that I had a quiet, yet strong display of love to watch and learn from. Not once did I ever feel like my parents owed me something for Valentine’s Day. It was their day and between the two of them. The fact that my mother might share something small was kind of her. But if I am honest, I looked forward in a fairy tale sort of way to one day sharing THAT kind of love.
In raising my children I carried on the tradition of giving something to my kids. It started out small, baking sugar cookies together and decorating them with fancy sparkly sugars. But somehow it became red gifts bags with tissue paper, stuffed with their favorite candies or sometimes a small toy or book and each year it seemed like they came to expect more of it and talked about what they would like to have. This year they asked me point blank if I have shopped for them yet. Interesting. Disappointing. My response was simple,
“Your father is my Valentine and I am his. While we have chosen to share OUR special love with you in the past, it is not a necessity. Perhaps you should be thinking who you might like to share something with, rather than focusing on your own receipt.” They fell silent.
It is my fault honestly that Valentine’s Day became such a “me- focused” holiday in my home with my children. I should have allowed them to watch their father and I. Allowed them to dream of having a love like ours one day. A love that moved them to want to do for someone else not because a holiday dictated it – but because we felt overwhelmingly blessed to have each other. I fear that what they have taken away from Valentine’s Day is a “what are you doing for me” attitude. Will my daughter be the wife that expects flowers, chocolates, dancing, romance and 5 star restaurant dinner because “she wants her fair share?” Will my sons feel pressure to have orchestrated romantic ski weekends away in trying to keep up with their couple friends? God forbid another couple do something so grandiose that they clearly must love their spouses more…
So as we approach Valentine’s Day this year – my gift to my children is simple. I love their father. He loves me. We are each other’s Valentines. They should be grateful to witness such a love and be hopeful that one day they should be blessed to experience the same. They should not be focused on whether or not their bags are filled with conversation hearts and Hershey kisses. No more than my expectation of Valentine's Day should be that my husband has planned 6 hours of romantic bliss in honor of the occasion.
This year we are getting back to basics around here. Back to what motivates a heart to give love. My very favorite thing on Valentine's Day is when my husband says to me first thing on the morning of February 14th-- "Will you be my Valentine?"
...And speaking of conversation hearts… my husband picks through the bag of conversation hearts and chooses the message he wants me to have at that moment. Then when I look down and it says, “You Rock” or “Soul Mate” – I'll admit my heart still skips a beat....
It's okay that some things be reserved for just the two of us. In fact, I think it's crucial that we leave somethings just for us. It gives our children something to aspire to, dream about and work for. Not just because the Hallmark store said to celebrate it. Happy Valentine's Day, kids -- I pray that you have the same wonderful feeling one day!