Full disclosure: I'm not a Valentine's Day person.
Not at all.
I can – and do – get all worked up for holiday magic a couple of times a year for Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox, but that's all I've got, really.
Don't get me wrong. I adore magic and celebration and special family traditions. But I don't get all Pinterest-crazed and out of hand for minor holidays. I have enough on my parenting plate without it.
But Lupine loves Valentine's day.
And while for me February 14 happens exactly eighteen seconds after New Year's and Christmas, she thinks about it all year long. And every year Lupine reminds me of the special things we have done in years past that she wants to be sure I remember.
She reminds me that:
- Each Valentine's day I give her and Sage each a mama-made Valentine. (Sometimes they are paper, sometimes a painted peg doll or wooden heart of something made of wool felt.)
- When they wake up the table is set all fancy-like, with the pretty yellow dishes and a tablecloth and hopefully some flowers.
- And the two small thrift store Valentine glasses are filled with pink steamers. (Don't forget the steamers, mama!)
Oh, my little Valentine.
But this year that wasn't all.
She wanted more Valentine magic to happen! (Much of it inspired by some very sweet Martin and Sylvia Valentine stories she's been loving this season). She wanted to give out Valentines to her friends. (A new concept for this homeschooling family!) She wanted to make a Valentine's day bunting out of paper hearts to hang across the kitchen doorway. She wanted to deliver secret Valentines to the neighbors up and down our road, hanging little heart baskets on their door knobs, preferably with chocolates tucked inside. Oh, and she wanted to make gluten-free vegan heart shaped pop tarts for a treat.
I was more overwhelmed by the second.
Did I mention that I'm not so into Valentine's Day? Yeah. And now it was snowballing.
But then something wonderful happened.
I told her that I couldn't do it all.
That if she needed this very special, very sparkly Valentine's day she needed to tie on her apron and get to work. This was her day, and she needed to step up and make it special on her own.
I agreed to do the basics (the traditions we've always enjoyed together) like make them each a Valentine and set the table and make the steamers, but that was it. The rest was on her.
Pete and I helped out as needed but let the bulk of the decorating, baking, and gift-giving fell to her.
She worked all week long, cutting paper hearts, weaving paper baskets, and writing Valentines. She made a grocery list for supplies she needed for treats, and set to work days in advance assembling ingredients for her dessert.
And watching her work I realized the power in this lesson. The power of wanting something so much and making it happen yourself, rather than waiting for someone else to meet your needs.
Self-love. Self-reliance. Determination.
I think as adults we often find ourselves disappointed when our partner or our friends can't fill our needs. And as we grow into ourselves in adulthood we learn (hopefully) along the way that if there is something we need or want we must lovingly ask for it or give it to ourselves.
And she's learning this already – at age nine.
And perhaps what it boils down to is this: as parents we want to do enough, give enough, be enough.
We want to provide our children with a magical, memorable, near-"perfect" childhood. We want so desperately to get this right and so we worry and question and compare.
And one way or another, most of us think we fall short.
But thinking that as parents we will carry all of the magic into childhood is misguided. That's not your job nor is it mine.
Let me say that again: you don't need to do it all or be it all or spin all the magic for your children.
Our work, instead, is to give what we can and then cheer our child on as they find a way to meet their own needs and create their own joy.
And so she did.
She measured and mixed and cut and baked. She made the most delicious, most beautiful Valentine treats I have ever seen. Indeed, she made a most magical day.
She did that. All on her own.
And at the end of the day the depth of joy and pleasure that came from this celebration emerged from the satisfaction of not being handed this magic, but of having created it herself.
She found her power and watched her skills unfold.
And that's a new tradition that I'm willing to pour myself into with gusto.