Over the past week every time I turned on the radio or television I heard about Valentine’s Day. I kept hearing that if you really loved your wife then she needed flowers and chocolates and maybe even diamonds. Then I heard that if you really loved your kids they needed new toys and clothes and maybe even a new phone. If an alien landed on this planet last week and all he knew of our civilization was what he heard in advertisements he would think that this is a very expensive and shallow place to live. He would think that relationships are built on stuff – really expensive stuff.
Friday was Valentine’s Day and like a good husband I bought my wife chocolate covered strawberries – her favorite. But unlike any other Valentine’s Day, my wife and I weren’t going to go to dinner or to a movie or out for a romantic evening. Instead, my wife was taking my daughter to basketball practice and then to dinner with my daughter’s friends while I took my son and 7 of his buddies along with my youngest daughter to the go-cart track for the beginning of my son’s birthday slumber party. I know at some point late in the evening my wife and I were in the same room for an hour or two but there were at least 10 kids at all times in the room with us – most often between us.
Now you might hear all of this and think that we are being neglectful of each other or you might think that we needed to make time to get away. Maybe you are right. But here is another way of thinking about it:
My oldest daughter is in her junior year of high school and in the back of our minds is this huge ticking clock counting down the minutes until she moves away to go to college. This isn’t a countdown to a glorious event for us. My heart already aches when I think about not sitting with Meg at dinner or following her around the state to basketball games or taking her and her friends to church devos or the movies.
My son just turned 14 and he wanted to race go-carts with his buddies. Daddy was the chauffer this year, not one of the buddies. He is about to enter high school and has started spiking his hair with mousse and working out and wearing enough cologne to gag a musk ox. I am worried that if I turn around he will be old enough to drive and will be on his own.
My little one is 9. She isn’t that little any more. Now I will admit that I took great joy in having a conversation about the Minions from “Despicable Me’ with her this morning. We had a thorough and earnest debate over which Minion we would welcome into our home to live with us if they knocked on our door. I love those conversations and those moments of innocence. I love the connection with the thoughts of a child and the innocence of pure unfiltered love.
My wife and I finally laid down about 2:30 in the morning of Valentines. Needless to say there was not hint of a romantic thought coming from either of us. Instead Sylvia sleepily told me about Meg’s practice and how she took a group of girls to dinner and they laughed and she listened to them talk about boys and their dreams of the future. She told me about how they laughed and giggled and she said she even joined in and felt like a kid again.
I told Sylvia about playing “Guitar Hero” at the go-cart track with my little Abbie and how I couldn’t keep the beat to “Rock and Roll All Night” despite the fact I grew up listening to it. I told her about Hunter racing the go-carts and Abbie climbing the rock wall and how happy they were. We then talked about the fact that 7, 14 year old boys were asleep in our front room and how the day would begin very early the next morning.
I kissed her goodnight and thought about the day. I realized how precious few Valentine’s Day moments there are left with My Meg and Hunter and Abbie. I looked at my sleeping wife. Then I realized - this is what a day of love is supposed to be about. This is a good day.