I knew Valentine’s Day wasn’t going to go well as soon as I saw the disappointment wash over her sleepy face.
I whispered, “Happy Valentine’s Day,” as her eyes scanned the room for the gifts I’d forgotten to buy.
Her smile disappeared. “You didn’t get me anything?” She’d spent the night before reminding me how I always got them something for Valentine’s Day, with the hint of reminding me I better not have forgotten them this year.
I had. And by the time I remembered, it was too late.
It was 5:30 pm on February 13th and we were in the store buying last minute treats for their teachers. She picked up a ridiculously large stuffed animal and exclaimed, “I hope you got me something like this for Valentine’s Day!”
My heart sank.
How could I have forgotten their gifts!? Because life has been a whirlwind of crazy the last few weeks. That’s how. I couldn’t exactly sneak anything extra into our small basket. My husband was working another all-night shift, too, so he would be of no help in this dire strait.
I would have to fail.
The next disappointed person to wake up wasn’t as harsh as my daughter, but it pierced my mom heart when my son also hugged me good morning and said, “You didn’t get us anything for Valentine’s Day?” I attempted to remind them that the day wasn’t over yet but let’s face it, that’s kind of like telling a kid Santa Claus will be coming on Christmas evening.
It doesn’t work.
My daughter spent the morning huffing and puffing around. That’s not unlike her typical sun-shiny morning self, but this morning it hurt more than usual. I already felt terrible, but I certainly wasn’t going to let her continue stabbing my heart with Cupid’s arrows of disappointment.
I tried not once, not twice, but countless times to hug and remind her that a box of chocolates isn’t what makes me a good mom or shows my love for her. She was having none of it. And by the umpteenth time she pulled and huffed away from my hugs, I was having none of it too.
I spent the rest of the morning hiding bitter tears and praying “Jesus take the wheel!” before leaving to drive my kids to school.
When we got into the car, my daughter wasn’t finished with her tantrum and threw her jacket into the backseat — the same jacket she angrily tried to “forget” twice before.
That was my breaking point — and Jesus took the wheel.
“You know,” I said with the kind of resolve that can only come from the Holy Spirit when a calm woman is also at her breaking point, “this is the test of loving someone. When it’s hard! When they throw it back in your face. When they forget about the million ways you’ve loved them each and every day and instead get angry with you because you forgot to buy them another box of chocolates.”
The rest of the car ride was a mix of deafening silence and profound words of wisdom sent straight from Heaven’s gates, to my lips, and into my children’s ears.
You see, my kids were upset because I hadn’t done what I’ve done each and every year they can remember for the last decade of the only decade they’ve been blessed to live on this beautiful Earth because I birthed them into it. They were disappointed because I have been a good mom. I’ve been a good mom on Valentine’s Day. I’ve been a good mom on Christmas (giving jolly St. Nick the credit, too). I’ve been a good mom on birthdays, on Easter, and for every tooth they’ve ever lost (blaming the Tooth Fairy for being late too).
I have been a good mom! And I am!
I’m also a great mom.
I’m a great mom for all the days I didn’t receive a thank you for the things I’ve done for my children. I’m a great mom for the ways I’ve loved them when they were miserable in return. I’m a great mom for every snide and hurtful remark I haven’t returned, for every tireless act of service, for every kiss they’ll never remember, for every sacrifice my body has made, for every prayer I’ve cried out with exhausted tears while they’ve slept, and for the million other ways I have loved them without expectation for return.
Before my daughter exited the car, after I’d basically poured out this same Crummy Valentine’s Day sermon to her burning ears, I saw her crossed arms begin to unfold and her stiff neck begin to turn downward. I knew she was sorry. I was glad she was — and I was too.
I am so sorry for forgetting to buy my kids their Valentine’s gifts this year. They won’t know how sorry until they have to disappoint their own kids.
But I am not sorry for the more valuable lesson it lent instead.
Our children don’t need gifts of chocolates and heart-shaped candies — they need eternal ones. They need the gifts of the Holy Spirit which teach us how to love when it’s hard. When it hurts. And when it isn’t like a box of chocolates.
Loving someone on Valentine’s Day is easy. But it’s the other 364 days that show how much we love them.
I’m so thankful for this crummy Valentine’s Day. It’s shown me that I am a good mom even when I fall short. It’s shown me how much I love my children even when they do. I think it’s shown them the same. And that is a greater gift than the one I forgot to give them.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)”