A Word On Parenting

Love is What Makes a Family: Forget the consumer-side of Valentine’s Day

By Brittany Berger

Valentine’s Day is upon us, and I always find this a great time to celebrate love in our family. I have never been the romantic type, but making Valentine’s Day a fun and memorable day where I can show my favorite little people in the world how much I love them has always been special. It is also a day when our younger kids share inclusive and equal love to all of their classmates. And, when I think back, some of my best memories in my childhood were made around Valentine’s Day.

The days leading up to this day of love the little kiddos come home with a list of 26 classmates for whom we need to make Valentine’s cards for. The store shelves of the seasonal isle are already down to just four options: Hello Kitty, Paw Patrol, Frozen, or Unicorns and they only come in packs of 24; the rest are sold out still only 10 days before Valentine’s Day. ‘These other parents are on it; I must be a procrastinator’, I think to myself. Then I remember, we don’t need to spend 10 bucks on these commercial products, let’s do it the old-fashioned way.

Flashback to 1994, I was six years old, and I lived with my aunt Paula in Leucadia. I was the luckiest little kid to live with the fun aunt. She made homework and school projects so amusing and she went all out! I had a Valentine’s party coming up in first grade. Paula set me up to make the most outstanding handmade Valentine’s cards for my classmates. She had all the stenciled shapes cut out and the card stock. She had a glue gun and things to glue to them. We made an assembly line and when they were done, they were beautiful. I still had to fill them out and use my very best writing. 

As I went down the list of my classmates, I would tell Paula about each one and pick a card for them. She listened with curiosity and asked me questions to keep me on my feet. Then I would write a note to each classmate. Paula taught me how to spell the word ‘love’, probably a year before, so I knew how to sign my name: Love, Brittany, but Paula patiently helped me write each and every card with very few mistakes. I was proud of my work and felt a new connection to all of my classmates, many of whom I am still friends with on Facebook and stay connected to because Paula really nurtured that connection between me and those classmates at such a young age. 

So, standing there in the grocery store I made a decision that this year we would make 26 Valentine’s Day cards by hand, and I will learn about my daughter’s classmates one by one as she makes a card for them with them in mind. As I begin to ask more questions and use that fun curiosity that Paula instilled in me, I learn about all the unique families. I learn about how well rounded and understanding my child is at 9 years old. She explained some complex family structures of some friends’ families and she highlighted positives that she thought those might bring. Many of her friends open up to her about being in a Queer family because they know she has Queer siblings. This to me was a great opportunity to discuss love, inclusivity, acceptance, and open-mindedness. I was pretty much just supporting and emphasizing a point that my kiddo already understood at her age, but it was such a beautiful conversation with my kiddo and the opportunity to pass down a tradition of connecting, loving, and getting to know more about how my kid is viewing the world through her lens. 

As parents we can all take this opportunity to teach our children to embrace love in all its expressions. I encourage parents to slow down this Valentine’s Day and spend time being present with your true loves, those kids! Whether you bake cookies, make a delicious meal, make homemade Valentine’s, or decorate together, use that time to connect with your kids with curiosity. Use that time to teach your kids the true meaning of love. Build a memory that lasts. Let’s forget the consumer Valentine’s Day get it done quick genderized goods and wasting money on sugar, plastic, and long stem roses… well maybe keep the roses. These things don’t equate to love. Love is time. Love is effort. Love is curiosity. Love is acceptance. Love is inclusive. Love is a beautiful thing that shouldn’t be taken for granted.

Paula Jeanne Spickard Luttrell   12/14/55 – 2/2/24
Your genius, generosity, guidance and love will be sorely missed by everyone who was lucky enough to know you.