I knew I had reached adulthood and was swimming in the depths of parenthood when the lure of Valentine’s Day only meant I somehow had to find time to get 20 cards for the other kids in my daughter’s kindergarten class and maybe include some type of candy in the span of an hour, the morning of the big day of course.
I was never a big fan of this Hallmark holiday although I somehow thought my now-husband would choose that date to propose (thankfully he didn’t). I barely remember if we even exchanged gifts on the day that year.
But now, as a parent, my kids celebrate every single holiday in some way at school so I can’t completely ignore this one.
As a mom, I want very little for Valentine’s Day, where all things love and chocolate are on full display. The National Retail Federation estimates Americans spend a whopping $20 billion on this holiday. But for this mom, it comes down to one thing: gratefulness.
For this mom, it comes down to one thing: gratefulness.?
The typical cliché that motherhood is a thankless job isn’t far off the mark. Moms are thanked in ways that are hardly ever thought through, like a simple smile from a child or a hug after a long day or blessed silence while on the phone for two minutes. It’s not so much saying ‘thank you’ because children take a lot of time to learn that -- not to say it to others but to say it to their parents.
In those moments of folding laundry or working late hours or getting up at the crack of the dawn to catch a flight for my job or meticulously meal-planning, I think of just how much my own mother did for me and how ungrateful I was.
She did so much for me, was so thoughtful in how she parented and how she loved my dad and set a good example of love for my brothers and me, yet I rarely said ‘thank you’ until I grew older. And even then, I had no idea the enormity of her sacrifices.
Now as a mother myself, I see what a simple ‘thank you’ could mean in the midst of the daily struggles just trying to do the best I can. Ungratefulness bothers me more than most things when I’m with my children and trying to do something fun and entertaining with them. Why can’t they just say ‘thank you’ and stop whining?
Why didn’t I just stop and say ‘thank you’ to my own mother instead of complaining? I get annoyed because I recognize what I lacked so deeply and never understood until I became a mother.
For Valentine’s Day, a simple “thank you” would go further than any jewelry or chocolate (although I’m not turning chocolate away) or night out to eat. A gesture of thoughtfulness strikes at my heart in a way other things cannot.
When my husband says he appreciates some simple thing I did to make his life easier or show him I love him, that’s worth more than anything he could purchase for me.
My oldest daughter wrote about one of our summer trips together for a class project in the fall and I had no knowledge about it until the teacher sent it home weeks later with other in-school work.
The trip we took was a lot of fun but non-stop with a water park, a theme park, and a visit to the Great Smoky Mountains. Needless to say, some parts were more challenging as a mom than others and I’m sure I lost my cool more than once during that trip. But when I read what she wrote, it was the sweetest and most innocent essay, full of all that we did and why she had the best trip. Even though it wasn’t written for me, it made me blissful. Without knowing it, she thanked me.
So while sleeping in or breakfast in bed is a wonderful gift for mothers this Valentine’s Day, it may take a lot less to capture her heart and show her she is appreciated and loved beyond measure with a gesture of gratefulness.