This is one of my favorite Valentine’s Day pictures. Henry was just barely two years old. When asked, he told the photographer that “my babies are my Valentines.”
As their mama, I know that my love will help them feel secure. At this tender age, I know that I am vital for their well-being. I know that just as nourishing as food and shelter is the witnessing of their discoveries and their hurts.
Some days, I worry that I am enough. I know in my head that I am not alone. My family and friends far and wide help to create a safety net that will catch us all. But on those hard days, sometimes I just don’t see it. Like when I am refereeing yet another argument about who is touching someone else’s toy, or stepping on yet another misplaced Lego (I swear they multiply in the microwave), or patiently removing glitter putty from a toddler’s hair.
I know they don’t see my love in their clean, folded clothes. And my effort with the 144 school class Valentines I hand wrote out last night by flashlight so as to not wake anyone up will go unrecognized. And, no, they are not Pinterest worthy. They are not fancy or clever, and if I’m honest, I think I misspelled their names more than once.
And the heart shaped pancakes I envisioned in my head to make the morning a little more special were really lopsided circle shaped pancakes with sprinkles. But, their brilliant smiles and exuberant shrieks (including George exclaiming, “Oh my heck!), when they saw them on the breakfast table, I know I am loved.
I know I am loved when I hear, “Mama, watch me! Mama, look at this! Mama! Mama! Mama!”
I know I am loved when they demand that I taste their lollipop (that’s been dropped in the dirt twice) and they state proudly, “I share my treat with you.”
I know I am loved when it takes us 20 minutes to get from the car to the house because we have to follow the lizard to protect it from our cat until it finds a safe hiding place.
I know I am loved when I am obviously tired and disheveled at the end of a long day and they greet me with running, jumping, hugs and then bounce a few feet away, giggling and challenging me to a game of chase, “Mama, you can’t catch me!”
This morning, as we talked about Valentine’s Day, I reminded them of how very much I love them. They all nodded and chirped back “I loooooove you.” And I wondered aloud, how do you know that I love you? What do I say or do that makes you feel loved?
Alexandra (age 3) responded, “You say I love you all of the day. And give great big hugs. And you help me look for my horse, Strawberry. And you let me do things all by myself, even when you’re in a hurry.”
George (age 3) responded, “You say ‘I love you’, you hug me, you play with me, you read stories to me, you sleep next to me when I’m scared of monsters.”
Victoria (age 3) responded, “You say ‘I love you’, you make me chocolate milk, you sing, you play, and you give me band-aids.”
Henry (age 5), responded, “Mama, you say ‘I love you’ all of the time. And you let me play Legos even when you want to go to sleep. And you take us on adventures to explore our planet, instead of working, on our family Adventure Day. And Mama, you hug me when I am happy and when I am sad and when I am mad and when I am scared. No matter how I feel! And when I need you, even though sometimes I have to practice being patient, you come to me. And you just wait with me until I’m ready again. And if I am at school or when you are working on a plane far away from home, I close my eyes and listen to my heart and I can find your love right there for me any time.”