I'm not a huge fan of Valentine's Day. When I was single, I both dreaded and anticipated Valentines Day. MAYBE this year I'd be one of the lucky girls going on a fancy date and receiving flowers. If that didn't happen, then I was an emotional wreck, convinced I'd go to my grave an old maid. Drama I can definitely live without. Can I get an AMEN?
My first Valentine's Day with Curt was significant because he told me loved me. By the next Valentine's Day, we were already married and Valentine's Day seemed almost insignificant. Each year we'd ask each other, "Are we celebrating this year?" and we'd hem and haw, get each other some small gift we didn't need, and go out to eat. But it felt so forced. Call me rebellious, but I don't like someone telling me I have to show love on a certain day. What is appealing about finding a babysitter and a dinner reservation on the same night that everyone else who has a chance at a date is doing the same thing? (Don't be afraid to admit that I'm making you weepy with my romantic sentiments.)
The first Valentine's Day after Grant was born, I took him to a photo studio and we got our picture taken together to give to Curt. I repeated it the next year with both kids and a tradition was born. As we added kids this idea started to seem like a bad one due to the amount of work involved to coordinate outfits and school schedules and bad moods and nap time and snack time and... It is worth the hassle though to see how excited the kids are to give Curt the new picture.
Curt's gift to me is his steady hand as a painter. I am not allowed to help paint because I'm impatient and sloppy and paint goes everywhere except on the wall, so each year around Valentines Day, Curt paints a room in the house for me. I'm sure he can hardly wait to get his painting assignment from me for this year.
Since we pretend to be anti-Valentine's Day, we also axed buying a card. Any romantic sentiments had to be presented in a home-made card or letter. This year I cut out a giant heart, embellished it with the very cheesy slogan, "For Valentines Day, I'd give you my heart, but you stole it the minute I laid eyes on you," and then decorated the heart with conversation heart candies that the kids helped me pick out. I thought it was clever until Curt gave me a hand-written love letter - the kind every woman dreams of. (GULP). He completely got the short end of the stick on that one this year...
Our final non-Valentine's celebration is a fancy family dinner. We set the table with breakable dishes, Curt grills steaks to perfection, and we dine by candlelight. It's typically my favorite part of Valentine's Day but the afternoon fell apart so fast and furiously, I was convinced that dinner may not happen. The kids got off the bus jacked up on goofballs from all the candy and sugar consumed during their school Valentine parties. The sugar wore off and we went from love fest to all out war. One daughter got in a "word fight" with her friend at school and it took FOREVER to get to the bottom of the story and come up with an applicable solution and consequence. She called her friend to work it out, clear up confusion, confirm that "yes, we're still friends," and then got sent to her room to memorize half of the New Testament. Another daughter completely lost her mind over something so small that I can't even remember what it pertained to. She also got sent to her room to memorize the entire book of Proverbs and every other verse in the Bible about controlling your anger. It became apparent that it would take an act of God for them to finish their memorizing before dinner.
I found myself storming around the kitchen throwing ingredients in bowls, spilling cause I was hurrying, and internally chanting my version of James 1:19-20, "Slow to speak. Slow to get angry. Quick to listen. Live a righteous life. REPEAT." I was irritated that our non-celebration of love was actually void of any mushy-gushy emotions. I felt like a failure as a mom that my daughters are still battling the same issues they've been working on for months. It was hard to be objective in that moment when nothing was going according to plan.
Our night redeemed itself. We had our family dinner, but we forgot to use the breakable dishes and we only dined partially by candlelight because the kids were complaining that they couldn't see their plates. I realized as I puttered around the kitchen cleaning up the aftermath of our fancy meal, that these tough scenarios aren't failures, but are teaching opportunities for my girls. One daughter put into practice conflict resolution. Another is learning self-control. These are tools they will take with them into adulthood and won't they be glad they have them?
God reminded me that we are all works-in-progress and just because we have a bad day, it doesn't mean we haven't come leaps and bounds from the wretched mess we were when He redeemed us. In God's perfect timing, I got an email this morning from a college buddy. The purpose of the email was specifically to encourage me in my mothering and to say, "Well done. Keep pressing on." It brought me to tears. Thank you Lord for skewed plans, for imperfections, for non-celebration celebrations, and Your perfect plan. You are so good!