I was raised to enjoy a holiday. Holidays are good excuses for making your loved ones feel special, and Valentine's Day is no exception. At my house growing up, it was a family event. Valentine's Day was about love, and my brother and I were loved. Period.
My mom would set the fancy table in the dining room with layers of white lace tablecloths, bouquets of fresh flowers, and a stack of gifts. When my high school years rolled around, and when Valentine's Day only heightened the sting of loneliness for my peers, I had my family. I was loved. I had a party to attend and it was right inside my own home. And that meant so much to me.
I carry that tradition forward now, and have a small version each year with my two little ones. It's lots of fun. They get it: love lives here.
One of the other ways we celebrate is with our Valentine's Advent Calendar. A few years ago, I came up with the idea of doing an advent of love notes, one a day for the first 14 days of February, for each member of my family. The kids have followed suit as they have been able. Now that my daughter is 8, she is fully writing her own. My son who is 5 is excited to draw some pictures depicting the things he loves about his family.
Each morning, they come down the stairs and get so excited to read their notes, words of affirmation and affection to start off their days. I want my people to walk out the door filled with smiles and security and an unshakable knowing why they are amazing to me.
Between my husband and I, of course the notes are an opportunity for praise and affection as well. I treasure his words, as he does mine. Sometimes the notes are hard to believe. Our resistance to love is striking sometimes, isn't it? We are more comfortable with our suspicions about how the other person sees us, than embracing the fact that someone finds us completely lovely. And of course, there are always the saucy notes. You know the kind. Perfect for kindling romance and laughter.
The thing is, we don't say what we love about the people we love often enough. We miss opportunities. We take them for granted so much. Our Advent calendar is one way we put into words the little things that mean so much. At the top, it says "Let Me Count the Ways," from the poem How do I Love Thee?
Each person has his or her own column of felt pockets, until Feb. 14th.
Some of the pockets have Valentine buttons.
I'm still taking out last years notes, and getting ready to hang it for tomorrow. I stick it into the wall with push pins.
Of course, you don't have to do something as elaborate as my calendar. You could do envelopes. You could get cute little mailboxes from the craft store. You could come up with any number of simple or complicated, amazing, creative ways to affirm your family members. The point is to be intentional. The point is that you tell them WHY they are so special to you. Not for what they do, but for who they are. That is a tricky part, to stick to the character qualities and strengths, not simply actions, that you appreciate.
Everyone needs to feel seen. If we don't tell our spouses and children who we see them to be, then how will they know?
Happy February, everyone. Tomorrow we start counting the ways.