My daughter doesn’t get what the big hoopla about Valentine’s Day is. She knows it was yesterday (Tuesday).
I had been asking her what she wanted to do during her Valentine playdate at home this week, and we settled on decorating heart-shaped cookies with her friends. There was talk of flowers and cards, but they didn’t mean anything to her.
Why should they? She’s only three. She’s more interested in dressing up as a flower than actually receiving one. She’s just happy to make pink frosting and eat heart-shaped chocolates in bed with me.
I’m hoping it will be another 15-18 years or so before she gets interested in finding someone else to spend this special day with. Her father is hoping it will take another 30. But that’s another story.
As Migs and I made plans for our 11th Valentine’s date (yay!), we had a laugh reminiscing, especially about the things we had gone through. I thought about how things had changed, and yet had stayed exactly the same over the years. Without a doubt, the best change for us was becoming parents. Suddenly, there’s just so much love going around.
Don’t get me wrong; my husband and I have always been happily in love with each other but with the kids around, suddenly, that love is not just between us anymore. Now we get to share it with two other wonderful little people who, on their own, just seem to radiate love, love, love all year long.
Even if, technically, young children don’t actually know anything about “love,” they manage to make our world go round with their innocent and pure expression of it. Can you imagine how much of a better place the world would be if we all learned how to love from children?
1. Presence, not presents.
Let me start with my favorite. I love this. I truly do. Small children don’t care about what you buy them. Okay, to a certain extent they do, but the truth is, it doesn’t matter because they just want to be with you. And when you’re with them, you get their 100-percent attention. No reading of text messages, no checking to see what’s on the news. Just hour after hour of singing, storytelling and silly faces.
Sometimes, I wonder how small kids can laugh so hard, and so many times, over the same corny things we do, day in, day out. Must be love, and if that ain’t love, I’ll take it anyway and pray that I can stretch this period for as long as I can.
2. A kiss is not just a kiss.
What kind of adoration and love do kids have for their parents that one kiss is enough to take away all the pain after a fall in the playground?
3. Forgive quickly.
Getting mad with kids is harder on any parent than any child knows. Yet, we do what we have to do. Sometimes my kids know when they’ve done something to deserve a scolding; other times, despite my explanations, they look absolutely clueless over why I am taking away their toy.
Yet, no less than 10 minutes later, they’re back at your side, asking you to put a puzzle together with them. They’ll even tell you that they’ve already “forgiven” you for scolding them and you’ll feel that they’ve completely forgotten it. The best part is, you can bet they won’t pull that incident on you the next time you fight!
4. Apologize simply.
While we’re on the subject of discipline and the incidents that require them, I may as well touch on their pride. Or rather, their lack of it. In the adult world, apologies are so hard to come by. Often, what we get are well-thought-of excuses and justifications when really, a simple “I’m sorry, I won’t do it again” is all we are looking for. But then, that would mean eating humble pie which adults can’t seem to do as easily as children.
Hugging can be tricky. There are many things to consider. Is it appropriate? How tight should it be? Perhaps just a perfunctory couple of taps on the back or a quick light squeeze before quickly pulling away. But none of these thoughts ever cross a child’s mind when you get lucky enough to be on the receiving end of a deliciously long and tight embrace.
Perhaps you’ve just returned from an out-of-town business trip. Or maybe, you’ve just come out of a 10-minute shower. Or maybe, they just felt like hugging. Either way, nothing comes close to a real embrace from the experts.
6. Love honestly.
“Do you love mama?” The answers can range from exhilarating (“Very much!”) to demoralizing (“A little”) to downright depressing (“No!”), but at least you know where you stand at that moment. That’s the thing with children’s love; what you see is what you get. They’re not lugging around issues from the past and taking it out on you, nor are they playing mind games to drive you crazy. They’re just loving you. Or not. But at least you know!
7. Love you for who you are.
Since this is a Valentine’s article, I have a license to get sappy so here we go.
“Don’t go changing to try to please me, you never let me down before…I love you just the way you are.” There’s every child’s theme song for their loved ones, if there ever was one. You can dance your chicken dance and hang around in a duster all day and you never have to worry that you’ll turn them off and lose their love. No matter what you look like, your background or what you’ve done, or do—it’s not important. Tiny children have big hearts, made to take you in completely.