Teaching our kids love begins with us. What it means to receive love well and to give love well, is learned first within the four walls of our home. Jeff and I decided when the children were little, that we wanted them to begin to think about Valentine’s Day as a way to express their love for one another, in a way that the other would receive well.
When Alexa was five and Nixon was three, we embarked on our first date where they were in charge of picking a gift for the other. The budget suggested Walmart was a good place to go. Jeff took Alexa and I took Nixon and together we all chose a gift for Austin. Nixon picked nail polish for Alexa. A ghastly green shade. He could not be swayed. Alexa picked a ball for Nixon. A hard red street hockey ball. These gifts were selected with minimal to no intervention from Jeff and I, and while neither gift was “perfect”, they were both bang on with what was meaningful to the other. I couldn’t believe how well they were able to recognize the other’s interests and express them with loving gifts, at such young ages.
Both of the children LOVED their gifts, and Nixon played with the hard ball even though he had no interest in street hockey and the ball wouldn’t bounce despite his best efforts. And Miss Alexa insisted on painting her finger nails green despite the fact that her wardrobe only consisted of pink due to her strong opinions about wearing anything else! A perfect example of how love can soften hearts.
Love can turn a less than perfect gift into a perfect gift. The heart of the giver is really the heart of the matter
Learning how to love people in a way that’s meaningful to them is a gift and a rare treasure. With more practice the easier it is to do. This comes so much easier to children, than it does for adults. The gifts they pick for one another get more and more “perfect” each year. This small tradition has become one of the children’s favorite things to do for one another. These are skills they learn that affect the world around them in positive ways. These are skills that are transferable into every relationship they have – even into the hard ones.
Today was our much anticipated annual shopping trip. I took Nixon and headed off in one direction, and Jeff took Alexa in another, and we met up to share a cinnamon bun together after. I loved how Nixon knew exactly where he wanted to go to pick out her gift. Alexa is an avid reader and while I tried to offer other suggestions because we do have a library card, he would not be moved. He asked me to read him the description of a few books and in a moment it was settled. And I actually believe he picked a book for her that she will love.
This little interlude with our children is something Jeff and I look forward to as well. Spending time one-on-one time is important to us and something we value. But we all know that life can run away on us and before you know it, it’s Christmas again and you haven’t done the things you had hoped. Establishing traditions is a great way to make sure we do the things we value. And in this case, the kids hold us accountable!
In and effort to keep the costs lower and the thoughtfulness higher, Jeff and I trade-off Valentine’s Day and our anniversary. This year, Valentine’s Day is mine – I plan a date for us and I buy Jeff a gift. He will then do the same for me on our anniversary. Next year we swap. It’s the intention and thoughtfulness we want to demonstrate for and teach our children – not the dollar amount of the gift.
Valentine’s Day is so much bigger than a Hallmark Holiday; it is an opportunity to seize. Watching the love Alexa and Nixon express love in this small and tangible way, is one of the greatest gifts of Valentine’s Day. We know we give them another kind of gift, when they see Jeff and I express our thoughtful, intentional love for one another.
I encourage you to start your own family traditions centered around loving each other well. And see the beautiful fruit this grows in their lives as individuals, and in your families as a whole.
Happy Love Day!