Post-Valentine’s Day Love

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“When God gave me to you, did he say, ‘Will you love him?’”—Sonny, at age 3

Valentine’s Day, that holiday marked by special gestures such as flowers, candy, cards, dinners out, is over. Valentine’s Day, that holiday unobserved—even scorned—by many (and they have their reasons), will not roll around for another 363 days.

Any day that celebrates love—be it romantic love or love for children, siblings, parents, friends—is worthwhile. Who can argue with love? Who can argue with roses? Who can argue with boxes of chocolate (which are now being clearanced at your nearest pharmacy, so don’t just sit there!). But Valentine’s Day gestures doesn’t compare to showing love the rest of the year in ways unscripted by Hallmark.

For example: We love our children. We love them when they’re loveable and when they’re unloveable. When they’re drawing us pictures, when they’re snuggling to read a book, when they’re doing their chores, when they’re helping their brother, when they’re playing superheroes, when they’re singing in the bathtub. When they’re trashing the house, when they’re refusing to do their chores, when they’re tormenting their brother, when they’re enthusiastically bailing bathwater onto the floor.

But sometimes, I suspect, despite our best efforts, they might not always feel very loved. Maybe we sometimes forget to show love (or are too irritated to do so; see bathwater example), or we show it in ways that they don’t feel.

So, I asked Sonny and Ace and some of their contemporaries (via their parents) what makes them feel loved. Here is what they said:

When you lie down and rest with me.

Going out for lunch with just Daddy.

Getting hugs and kisses.

When you tell me you love me.

When you listen to me.

When you ask me what I think.

When you build things with me.

Snuggling.

Playing Candyland with me.

Notes in my lunchbox.

Laughing together.

Walking the dog with me so I don’t have to go alone.

Getting mail from Grandpa and Grandma.

When you notice I did a good job.

When people say thank you.

Much as they love Disneyland and electronics and staying up late and toys (and lots of them), none of these kids associated those things with feeling loved. They just want a little time, a little attention, a little affirmation, a little sharing of interests. A little grace. Then they will feel loved.

After all, Captain von Trapp loved his children, but they didn’t figure that out until he sang with them.

Adults are no different. Spouses, siblings, parents, grandparents, friends, neighbors—what makes them feel loved? A little time, a little attention, a little affirmation, a little sharing of interests. A little grace.

What does this look like? Depending on the recipient, maybe a phone call. Maybe a chore taken off their hands. Being listened to. A note. A visit. A sincere compliment. A favorite meal. Permission to be themselves. Praise or appreciation instead of criticism. A walk together. Going out for coffee. A hug.

See? You don’t even have to buy any roses or any chocolates (clearanced or otherwise).

So Happy Non-Valentine’s Days, all 363 of them. Don’t forget to celebrate.