A few years ago, when Grace (now 4) was a baby I drove all 5 kids down to California. I was a bit nervous about being 1200 miles from home and not having another adult to share road-trip responsibilities. Think about it; every potty break for 1200 miles involved unbuckling 3 kids in car seats and bringing 6 people into a public bathroom. We had a blast, though. We had a cooler filled with car snacks, we made a CD of the kids’ favorite music and we stayed overnight at a hotel with a swimming pool. I wasn’t even gone one night, though when I started missing my husband.
Valentine’s Chocolate for Kids
He was building our second restaurant and spent over 12 hours a day, 7 days a week on construction. My mission in California was to pick up a uhaul trailer, a pizza prep fridge, empty our storage unit (collecting dust for 8 years), spend a week at a beach house in San Diego with my Dad and attend my sister’s wedding.
The trip was a big deal for me, being alone and fully responsible for all 5 kids, missing my husband and visiting family alone was strange. Checking into a hotel as the only adult with 5 kids was strange, renting a uHaul trailer was strange. These were grown-up things that I just had never done before, alone.
The time we spent at the beach was wonderful. My Dad and step mom are amazing, two of my favorite people in the world. When they married, He had two teenage daughters (me & my sister) and she had two teenage sons and a 7 yr old daughter. We’re all grown now, that week at the beach was so much fun, I’d never even met my brothers’ wives before and since then they’ve each had babies.
At my sister’s wedding I was in an odd mood. I was missing my husband and a little annoyed with my sister’s obsessive attention to detail. She wasn’t a bridezilla, but I still wasn’t very tolerant of her that weekend. Somehow dressing and grooming myself plus 5 children seemed a little more worthy-of-whining than whatever she was complaining about. I think I held it together, I kept telling myself “That’s just how she is” and “Her intentions are pure.” She wasn’t trying to stress anyone out, she just wanted things perfect. She’s changed so much since she’s become a mother. I hope now that she rolls with the punches a little better.
Valentines for my Kids
It was wonderful being there with my sister & mother. Before that point, it had been years since I’d seen her and many more years since I’d seen the two of them together. The late nights we spent at my sister’s house that weekend will never be forgotten, we played games, chatted (was there wine?- so much for remembering) and my kids entertained us. Still- the mood was weird; away from home, alone with all the kids, seeing people I hadn’t seen in forever. It was just a weird mood. It felt good to be the only adult in charge, but I kept fearing I’d do something wrong and he’d be upset with me later. I felt… unsupervised in the weirdest way.
At the reception (which was lovely) my dad made a speech that’s echoed back to me so many times. Perhaps my weird mood made it stick in my mind. Either way, my Dad is a really good speaker. I wish I’d inherited that trait. He knows how to keep a crowd’s attention, how to tell a story and how to stay on topic. He starts off entertaining and ends with applause, every time. He’s always done well in sales and never had trouble with the ladies.
Dad & Vicki went through 3 different spouses (collectively) until they found one another. His speech (or was it a toast?) mainly said that it’s important to show people how much you love them.
“Every day I try to out-love her and every day she beats me at it. One day I get up to make her breakfast and she’s got my breakfast & coffee on a tray, my computer fired up for work and my favorite towel hanging in the bathroom.” (And my quote may totally be remembered wrong, but that’s close enough)
I knew they were very loving, several years ago I remember her staring into his eyes and saying “I’d eat bees for you, babe” and it was the sweetest thing.
Anyway, that speech and the idea of competitive love-showing has brought me so much joy over the past few years.
I used to think divorce was a sign of failure. I used to think it was awful, giving up like that. In spite of that belief, whenever our marriage was in trouble I’d always be the one who wanted to run away. I think Dad’s speech, and the echo of it playing in my head for 4 years, has made a big difference.
It was such a profound idea, the idea of constantly showing love, that it took him 3 marriages to figure it out. Everything happens for a reason and I think, today, that every spouse and ex-spouse in my parental background is better off, shaped by the people they’ve chosen to love. I’m no longer feeling critical of their “failed” marriages because the things they learned about themselves, about love and about life are successes, by any measure.
I’m also no longer compelled to feel “unloved” by my husband whenever we disagree. It took a lot of fighting for us to come to a place of constant communication, but we’re here. I think. Fighting isn’t failing, it’s just an aggressive attempt to learn how to get along. In every fight, isn’t there a seed of wanting peace? I’m not going to change who he is, and I’ll probably never convince him to understand who I am. But I can keep loving him in spite of that, right?
Our kids have taught us the value of constantly showing our love, too. Love letters are always being exchanged in our house. A couple months ago I bought a few heart-shaped platters. They were a hit; whenever I serve food on them the kids think it’s special. My mom gifted the children with their own teeny little mailboxes and they’re always sending each other love notes.
This year for Valentine’s day I picked up a sake set covered in hearts for the kids. We’re going to have a tea party (because they love tea parties) I doubt these dishes will ever see real sake, but the kids will love that the cups are teeny and the hearts will remind them that they are loved.
Maybe some day my husband and I will go out for a romantic Valentine’s Day Dinner. There’s plenty of time for that when the kids are grown. Until then, we’re surrounded by love, and the little picture of my sister’s wedding serves as a reminder each time I see it that maybe, if I get up early enough and don’t get caught, I can sneak in more love-showing than anyone in the family. Because that’s how I want to roll.
Here are a few sample love letters I’m using for my kids. I’ve tried to steer clear of labeling “you’re so ____” and make them expressions of love, rather than pride. Enjoy…
I love you. I’m having a lot of fun being your mommy. I like the stories you tell me and I’m glad you enjoy your new haircut. I’m looking forward to many more years as your mommy.
Happy Valentine’s Day. I wanted to tell you that I’m glad to be your mommy. I noticed that you enjoy chocolate, so I hope you like this gift. Thank you for being my kid.
Hello, this is mom. I have a message for you. You are special to me. Every day I am happy to have you in our family. I hope you are happy to be here, too.
I’ve had so much fun watching you grow up. You might think you have a lot to learn, but I am learning so much from you. We can never know what lies ahead, only what lies within and I’ve noticed that within you, you have so many gifts and talents. Watching you use them and share them with the world is truly one of the best things about being a mother.
Thank you for being you. I know it sounds lame, but sometimes you are exactly who I need to be around. I’m so glad that you share so much of your life and your thoughts with me. I might tease you about talking so much, but to be honest, no day would be complete without your narrative. I love listening to the way you think and your perceptions about the world. Every day, you amaze me with your insights, I’m very lucky to be learning from you.
Valentines for Teens
So what are you doing to show your kids love this Valentine’s Day? I used to be annoyed with Hallmark and retailers for commercializing Valentine’s Day. I used to feel that they “took the meaning away” by including loves other than romantic love. I feel so differently today, though. Love knows no limits, the show of love should also be limitless. Romantic love grows into big family love, if you’re lucky.