During our early years, Dad and I dreamed about parenting intentionally. We talked about creating our own family culture with fresh traditions, pulling tidbits from each of our childhoods. We wanted to shape our own legacy for you, wanting you to venture out and do the same someday.
We talked about birthdays, Thanksgiving, Easter, and Christmas. Somehow in all these conversations, I came to stake my claim firmly on Valentine’s Day. Making February 14 our own was a way to affirm one of the things I wanted most for you kids — for you to know you are delighted in and loved.
In my early adult life, I battled with feeling tolerated and rejected rather than enjoyed. My struggle with worth translated to a personal faith built on needing to perform to earn love. How I longed to spare you of these demons.
In my pursuit to be a legacy builder, I looked beyond the hearts and chocolate candies. Valentine’s Day became an avenue to both affirm your worth and emphasize a faith built on the love of our Heavenly Father.
During Your Childhood
As I’d write out reasons why I loved you on paper hearts, tying them to the outside of your doorframe on long strings while you slept, I hoped you’d grow confident in being cherished. When you walked out on Valentine’s morning, I wanted these “heart attacks” to do far more than make you laugh.
When I put effort into heart-shaped pancakes instead of the usual quick bowl of cereal, I prayed for deep faith roots and strong family ties. During our trips to pick out class Valentines, I’d emphasis the importance of how you make others feel. You may not remember those little conversations, zoning out to eye the goodies. But I hoped that when you were older, you’d carry within your DNA the importance of showing love and kindness to others. That’s what I meant when I’d say on loop, “Live liked you’re loved!”
During the annual Valentine’s scavenger hunt, you three had to work together to solve the clues. I was thinking about your future sibling relationships. I sketched out those little pieces of paper, leading you all around the house, uttering silent prayers of gratitude for my sister and how we’ve held each other through our hardest moments in life.
At the end of those hunts, when you dug into your individual basket of goodies, I wanted each of you feel seen and appreciated as the unique person you are, rather than a collective group. I was attempting to breath courage to claim your particular gifts, personalities, and strengths.
It wasn’t just a basketball I purchased, but it was an affirmation of a son’s dream to be part of a team.
It wasn’t merely a sketch pad; it was a mom saying fill the pages of your life with all the bold colors of your creativity.
When I looked through all the craft kit options, I chose carefully, hoping to convey that your future is yours to create, weaving together your talents to make something remarkable with them.
Your Teen Years
Over the years, as you outgrew class Valentine exchanges, we seemed to outgrow these particular Valentine traditions. We morphed into the teen years and I tried to adapt a more organic approach to teaching you to love others while seeking to constantly affirm my love for you. Mom guilt would strike at the most random times, and I would wonder if I should force the issue of sibling scavenger hunts and heart-shaped food?
But then, the tiny green sprig of harvest pushed through the soil of adolescence. It was breathtaking to see those seeds from childhood begin to grow. I held back tears watching you teenagers stretch out your growing frames, to play with your baby cousins. My heart could barely hold the joy when you echoed the same phrases with such tenderness that I used to speak to you.
Though we no longer celebrate Valentine’s in the same way, I am awed by the million little ways you’ve each embraced these lessons on love. Overheard snippets of teenage conversation reflect strong friendships and mutual support. Your overwhelming sense of social justice tells me you’re finding your voice for the oppressed and marginalized. My mother’s heart swells when you ask my advice about your future career, connecting your passions with your desire to help others.
Now into Adulthood
I no longer hang paper hearts on your door frames on February 14. But every day I tuck into my heart all the things I admire about you. Every day, I utter the prayer that you will keep living like you’re loved, along with gratitude that I get to be your mom.
Happy Valentine’s Day, my loves.
To the moon and back.