Instead of Valentines Hazel made this little picture out of her felt. I guess deep down her pre-teen self thinks it’s kind of a pukey holiday. I love that girl. She’s got personality.
I don’t think she really dislikes Valentines day. I think she may have actually been feeling a little barfy when she made it. But, it did make me stop and wonder, do I like this holiday? Of course there are all the cynical arguments to not like it – commercialism, contrived expressions of love, how it makes people feel who don’t have a significant other etc etc. And then there are the reasons that tempt me to dislike any holiday – all those perfect moms posting all the perfect things they did to celebrate (of course I don’t really resent this….I’m just jealous since I’m so not good at doing those pinable holiday things), all the hoopla and work kids expect to make the holiday match up with previous ones, or with the ones they hear about from their friends.
But, in truth, I do like Valentines day. I like that it gives us pause to stop and think about those we love. To reflect on how we love them. To express our love for them in a more formal way. I love all the ideas out there to help families demonstrate their love for each other, all the heart attacks and family dates and romance between mom and dad. To me, that is all good stuff. Stuff that really can make our kids feel secure and loved and like they belong.
We did our fair share of that over the weekend. We went on a little family date last night, out to eat and disco bowling. We had a really great time (until it got a little too late and I got a little too insistent on taking a picture….all that for this blurry picture? when will I learn?). We had pink oatmeal for breakfast and pink bread for lunch and after church we made and brought some little treats to people in our congregation who were lonely. Tonight the kids served us a very romantic and hilarious candle light dinner. They even put themselves to bed while we sat by the fire.
But tonight as I cleaned up the mess from the weekend I wondered, through all this celebrating, did my kids actually feel loved by me? I did all the outward things that they expected from the holiday. I wrote them love letters and left buckets of candy by their breakfast plates. But I was tired from staying up late preparing and my patience wasn’t perfect. I was frazzled as I moved us through all the things that I felt the holiday demanded of us.
I’m not saying I did it totally wrong. I think I got a lot of it right. I just want to make sure that the stuff of holidays doesn’t get in the way of the real meaning behind them. The stuff is productive, it’s tangible, it’s something we can see and measure and post. But the real love that we’re celebrating today is so utterly different from the stuff that it generates. We can’t see or measure or post love. We don’t plan love. It’s not on our to do list.
But love is the substance of everything. If I step back to examine my motivations, love is the engine driving what I do. Though there are whole days and weeks and seasons where I don’t recognize it, where I plow through the to do lists without seeing the love that’s actually propelling my actions. I’ve found that when I stop to love and to recognize the love embedded in the work I’m doing then even the mundane motherhood tasks become meaningful, become a part of the real magic of love.
Richard A. Swenson, M. D. says: “Love is the only thing that will exit out the other side. It will stand alone, vindicated. It will finally and clearly be seen for the dominant, unbeatable, infinite, glorified force it has always been, just obscured for millennia by layers of fallen clutter.”
With each holiday that passes I’m realizing more and more the importance of cutting through the “layers of fallen clutter” to see love as the real force that drives the celebration. It is through recognizing this force that I can see clearly into which parts of the holiday really matter to our family, which holiday ‘stuff’ will bring us closer to the core meaning.
Because without love at the core, Valentines Day is a pretty barfy holiday.