Author’s Note: This was my first article that I wrote for The Well Written Woman, posted a year ago today. And it only came about because of my wonderful husband!
Last night, the eve of Valentine’s Day, my husband came into the living room and up to me saying, “Elizabeth wanted me to make sure that you got your Valentine. Do you want it?” I looked at him with a rather “huh” look on my face so he repeated himself, tacking “Do you want it now?” to the end. When I still couldn’t think of what to answer, he explained, “She left it on your chair. She’s fourteen months old and has no idea about where to place things.” Complete with that exasperated roll of his eyes that he affects so badly.
Then I got it; he wanted me to open my Valentine from our toddler daughter. I smiled and answered, “Sure, I’d like it. I don’t want to sit on it in the middle of the night.”
So off my husband went, returning with my Valentine in hand. It consisted of an envelope assembled from two stapled pieces of brown construction paper, “Happy Valentine’s Day” written in red crayon across the front. Inside was a pink construction paper card with a red heart on the front, the sweetest poem on the inside, and Elizabeth’s “signature” (Bizzy) on the back, complete with a corner bitten off, as my daughter is wont to do with paper. I started to cry. I mean, really cry. I hugged my husband and he just held me and let me cry for a long while. My heart was so full, though perhaps not for the reason that you would think.
I was not crying because the Valentine was from my daughter, because it really wasn’t. What wrung the tears from my eyes and poured them over my smile was Ben’s heart showing through my first construction paper Valentine. It was his hand that had cut out the heart on the front, his mind and heart that had composed the poem, and his arms that had held our daughter and helped her sign her name to the back of the card. That Valentine might bear Elizabeth’s name but it was a construct of my husband’s loving soul, one that touched me to my core.
While our child is dear and sweet and holds parts of ourselves, Ben and I made the decision together a long time ago that we are a team, we are in this together, and each other comes first. While we love our daughter deeply and fully, we choose to love each other first and best. That may sound horrible to some people but it is a strategy that I have witnessed the success of rather close to home. If we are weak and unloving as a husband and wife, how could we possibly hope to be strong and loving parents to Elizabeth? Ben is my first, and I am his. And I was reminded of that in his little skit and gorgeous Valentine. It was funny, cute, adorable, and amazing. It was created out of love and care for my heart, not because it was something that was expected or had to be done. Ben wanted to remind me that what I do for our Elizabeth and our home is noticed and appreciated, which, for a stay-at-home mom with a toddler, is a great heart-soother. So my most treasured Valentine today is a handmade one on construction paper that bears my daughter’s name, but that is her father’s noble and loving heart on the front of the card. You can’t hide behind her, dear. She’s only two and a half feet tall.