Treating Valentine’s Day Gently


Yesterday was that most celebrated and simultaneously dreaded and reviled of days: Valentine’s Day. I know some people who love it, others who disagree with it, boycott it, or downright hate it, all for different and likely very valid reasons. I personally don’t mind it. It gives me an excuse to do what I enjoy doing anyway: letting people know that they are cared for, loved, and appreciated.

In college, I bought carnations from one of the sororities and had them sent around campus to my friends. I snuck around dorms, leaving parcels of fresh-baked cookies or sliding cards under doors.

Nowadays, I send letters and cards through the mail, few to none of them necessarily red or pink or covered in hearts. I sometimes send flowers, goodie/snack baskets, books, or coveted t-shirts.

This year, I bought my husband a card about cuddling up and binge-watching our favorite show, along with a copy of the latest season of “The Big Bang Theory” so we could do just that. He bought me a DVD of a show that I have been looking forward to, too. I bought my daughter some cute outfits for her first Valentine’s Day party at preschool and a card with a spring-loaded heart inside, which she played with and covered in stickers all evening.

Yes, the day has become commercialized. Yes, the keeping of it has become social expectation. Yes, some people try to front-load affection, love, kindness, etc., and then let it lapse the rest of the year.

For some, this day is a day of bitter memory, of hurts tied not to the day itself but to the events of one or several Valentine’s Days. Unfortunately, over time, those bitter cords have attached themselves to the day itself. The circumstances have perhaps faded into oblivion, leaving only the day to stand as a bastion of misery and thus worthy of boycotting.

Again, people’s reasons are valid and they are free to do as they will.

For me, I choose to approach Valentine’s with the thought of, “Whose heart can I gentle today?”

Whose heart can I make smile today?

Who can I remind that they are loved today?

Who needs a reminder of the good that they have done that I’m grateful for?

Who could just use a kind word on what might be a lonely day?

For me, Valentine’s Day isn’t an obligation, it isn’t a burden. It’s an opportunity–for love, for encouragement, for gentleness. But that’s just the way I see it.

I hope yours was good to you.

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Redux: Hiding Behind a Valentine


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!

Valentine

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.