With Valentine’s Day in mind, I convinced my mom to send me some photos of her and my dad back when they were high school sweethearts in the late 70s. Oh man, this is great. I love how happy they look. Almost 35 years later, they’re still just as happy. I’m so lucky to have these two as parents. For real, check out my dad’s hair. It may or may not be longer than my mom’s. One word dad – stylin’.
And I’m so grateful to have a mom who shares memories and insights with me in the form of Mommy Memos. I love reflecting on her example as an ambitious mother who created a magical childhood for me.
Mommy Memo No. 7
I remember my daughter asking me once, "Mom, what is Valentine's Day anyway?" My answer, "It's a day to celebrate Love.” (Yes, love with a capital L). A day when you go the extra mile to remind those we love that we do in fact love them. Yes, this is something we do everyday but let’s get real, life happens and we sometimes go days without reminding the ones we love how much they mean to us. So what’s wrong with a day dedicated to doing just that? Nothing, I say, nothing at all.
Valentine's Day for me, as a child, was my Mom receiving a beautiful hand-written letter from my Dad. It was always taped on the mirror in their bedroom so it would be the first thing she saw when she woke up that morning. It was her wonderful, moist, delicious, heart-shaped Red Velvet Cake for all of us.
When I was in grade school, it was macaroni necklaces, cards made of paper lace doilies, love notes, marbles from LaVell Loosli, and of course decorating my own individual box to hold anticipated valentines.
When I was 16, it was making a GIANT heart-shaped cookie with my Mom to give to my boyfriend (my husband now). We had a great time together, flour on us both from head to toe! I remember the recipe had honey in it. My mom said, "to make it sweeter."
When my children were preschoolers, I tried to teach them that this could be a day about giving back. My daughter would tell me that the Valentines never had enough room to write notes. My sons on the other hand, were perfectly content with writing the names of their classmates and their own names over and over again.
As a young Mom, Valentine's Day was a really good opportunity to teach my children about the value of being kind to others and putting yourself in another person's shoes. One rule at our house was that EVERYONE in their elementary class received a Valentine. Children who are concerned that someone might be left out truly have the Valentine's Day spirit and a caring attitude. Learning compassion for others at a young age is important to the development of a well rounded adult. Making Valentines together as a family taught the importance of supporting each other, doing things together, and service to one another. One of my personal treasures is a hand-made Valentine that came to me in the mail from my son when he was serving a two year mission in Resistencia, Argentina 10 years ago.
How do you celebrate Valentine's Day in your family? What effect does it have on your children? I remember 20 years ago spending several hours with my children making "the perfect" recording on our answering machine for "the perfect" Valentine's message. Playing the piano and singing together was fun and exciting. We anticipated coming home to hear the messages left on our answering machine and the response of special friends and neighbors. Family love is part of this holiday. Visiting Uncle Leo and Aunt Lenore in her wheel chair, exchanging Valentines with them, and eating red peanut M&M's together will always be precious memories. Such special family members, dear to our hearts, who have passed on.
A card, or a small gift to a child on Valentine's Day helps a child feel appreciated and loved. When children watch you as a parent give gifts of kindness, time, compassion, respect, and thoughtfulness to the people you love not just on holidays but throughout the year, they will learn that "I Love You" means so much more than three words inscribed on a candy heart. James M. Barrie, author of the classic Peter Pan suggested that "the secret of happiness is not in doing what one likes to do, but in liking what one has to do." With that in mind, keep those red construction paper hearts coming!