Not My Valentine
by Kristen Ivy
“I can’t marry you mama, because you’re going to die.”
This is the truth that my four-year-old son shared with me while I stood in the kitchen last night.
True on two accounts.
I will die some day.
And he probably shouldn’t marry me.
The statement was followed by a very deeply alarming conversation about his plans for the future including:
“I will just marry Milly because I love her.”
“I can’t marry Milly because she’s not a mama.”
“Can you ask Milly’s mama if we can get married?”
“I think I will marry Milly when I am ten years old, or maybe seventeen because then I will be old enough to drink coke.”
For the record, I’ve never declared a legal drinking age for soda in our house, but I rolled with it—you know, after I explained that sometimes it’s okay to marry a girl who’s not a mom yet. It’s actually okay to get married and then become a mom. But I didn’t want to push that one too far. I was already in a little over my head in the conversation.
Today, while laughing privately about our seriously comical conversation about his future family plans, I realized how much truth he was really sharing with me. He may not have all the pieces put together yet, but I’m pretty sure I have a smart four-year-old.
This week is Valentine’s.
That means dads will go to dances with their little girls. A lucky mom or two might get a card and a carnation from their son. But for the most part, parents everywhere will help plan, cut, paste, paint, draw and design cards for their sons and daughters to take to school. Cards they will give to someone else.
Valentine’s is one more example of the truth my son was trying to let me in on. We aren’t their valentines. We aren’t their future. We aren’t ultimately the one they will give their hearts to.
Our kids will never love us back the way we love them. And that’s okay.
I’m not saying that in a sad way. Actually, I think it’s pretty encouraging—especially if your son or daughter is over the age of ten and is starting to let you know very clearly that you have taken a backseat to. . . well, you know, Harry Styles, Selena Gomez, or Grace from geometry class. It happens.
Our job as parents isn’t to make sure they love us back as much as we love them. If you think that’s your job, you may end up really depressed one day when you discover your kid has significantly fewer videos of you on their iPhone than you do of them, and possibly even fewer features of you on Instagram.
Our job is just to give them love.
Parenting is just not like any other relationship. We love our kids in an un-balanced, never equally reciprocated, over the top, makes your heart ache kind of way.
But it’s not in vain. The love you give your child this Valentine’s day, and the day after that, and the day after that, all adds up to something incredible.
You are giving them the confidence to know they are lovable.
You are teaching them what it means to be loved by someone.
You are demonstrating to them what it looks like to love someone else.
So it’s okay if the most important Valentine you give today isn’t to someone who gives you one back. They might. They might not. Your unconditional love for them goes far beyond what they can ever give you in return.
Come to think of it, now that you know and understand the extent of a parent’s love . . .
If someone parented you, maybe you could surprise them with a little unexpected Valentine this week! (Not that it evens the playing field.)
About the Author:
Kristen Ivy is the Executive Director of Messaging at Orange and co-author of "Playing For Keeps", "Creating a Lead Small Culture", and "It’s Just a Phase - So Don't Miss It". She combines her degree in secondary education with a Master of Divinity and lives out the full Orange spectrum as the wife of XP3 Students Orange Specialist, Matt Ivy, and the mother of three children, Sawyer, Hensley, and Raleigh. Read more from Kristen on her blog, justaphase.com.
The Best Thing for Your Kids
by Ted Lowe
Do you have plans to go out on a date with your spouse this Valentine’s Day?
The best thing you can do for your kids is to leave…for the night…with your spouse. We all love our kids and want what’s best for them. We sign them up for activities and sports, which is good. We want them to have time with friends, which is good. We want them to make good grades, so they will get into a good college, so they will get a good job, so they______________, which is good. We all want to fill in that blank with good things. But if we are not careful, we might forget to do the thing our child needs most: love our spouse. Philip Cowan, Ph.D., a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who has studied families for decades with his wife, psychologist Carolyn Pape Cowan, Ph.D. says, “Kids whose parents’ relationship has cooled are more likely to have behavioral or academic problems than kids of happy couples. Even if you can’t see yourself going out on a date for yourselves, do it for your kids.”
My wife and I go on a date almost every week. We take a few hours each week just for us. We work out together, see movies, have a meal, we talk, ask each other silly questions, and do that other fun thing couples do. We have uninterrupted time to re-connect. Dating lifts our heads from the chaos of kids and work, and makes us see each other. Dating matters. It really matters, but not just for us, for our kids. Carol Ummel Lindquist, Ph.D. and author says, “The irony is that a strong relationship with your spouse is one of the best things you can do for your kids. You and your spouse are modeling a good relationship, which sets your children up for better marriages themselves when they grow up.”
Dads, the best thing you can do for your children is to love their mother. Moms, the best thing you can do for your children is to love their father.
Do you want your kids to have a marriage like yours? Because they more than likely will. So, model fun and connection and make it a priority in your marriage. The best thing you can do for your kids is to leave…for the night…with your spouse.
So, definitely plan on going out to celebrate sometime next week for Valentine’s day, but also think about how and when you and your spouse will make dating a priority throughout the rest of the year.
About the Author:
Ted Lowe is the founder of an organization called MarriedPeople, a partner of Orange, which creates resources and training tools for leaders that work with married couples. Ted also co-authored the book, “MarriedPeople: How Your Church Can Build Marriages That Last”. He lives in Cumming, Georgia, with his four favorite people: his wife, Nancie, and their three children. Read more from Ted on the MarriedPeople Blog or on Twitter.