When I was a child, my sisters and I would begin preparations for Valentine’s Day by rummaging in the buffet to check the years’ accumulation of crepe paper, then, with a dime between us we would troop uptown to select two packages of crepe paper. We would empty available boxes of anything from shoes to cereal. We cut, placed and pasted until the whole dining room was adrift with paste and paper. The creation of our valentine box would take a whole deliciously satisfying afternoon.
Celebrations of Valentine’s Day have been streamlined over the years. Homemade valentine boxes are a thing of the past, crepe paper is hard to find, and ten cents won’t buy very much.
Love was not a topic I considered much as a youngster, but it surrounded me in abundance. The love of my parents for my sisters and me did not keep them from setting limits with a firm hand. I had no illusions about my status … I was the child and they were the parents! There wasn’t much money for gifts or indulgences, but I was secure and I knew that I was loved.
Celebration rituals for Valentine’s Day have changed and so have the ways that parents demonstrate love for their children. Today’s parents are no less loving but in a busier and more affluent environment, they sometimes feel pressure to express their love in less appropriate ways. They have been sold on the idea that establishing their children as the first priority in their lives is an expression of powerful love. The wants and wishes of children are expected to be given supreme consideration. Parents deny themselves to guarantee that their children suffer no disappointment, face no frustrations, and never have their desires thwarted.
Is this admirable? Is it an expression of love? Does it make children feel loved and secure? NO! These indulgences only produce selfish, defiant children convinced that they deserve to have everything they want. Contrary to this popular notion, parents who really love their children should carefully consider their priorities.
Necessities, of course, are not open for question. Any parent who brings a child into this world has an obligation to provide them with food, shelter, and affection. But if it were possible to choose for every child the most lasting expression of love for Valentine’s Day, it would be the gift of living in a secure home with happy loving parents.
HOW DO YOU GIVE THIS GIFT?
If you love your child — consider your own needs for fulfillment. Allow yourself the time to be the best person you can be. Go to college, go to the beauty shop, buy a new dress, and take time for solitude. Without this personal satisfaction and achievement, you will have little to contribute to your child or other personal relationships.
If you love your child — take time for your marriage and your spouse. Children may protest being left with a sitter, but if it helps preserve your marriage, it is an indulgence for your child, not yourself. No loving parent would want their child to grow up in an atmosphere of tension and disagreement. A strong marriage cannot be constructed by two people who are not in tune with themselves or who are focused exclusively on their children.
Children are a gift and a tremendous responsibility. No parent should ever lose sight of their importance, but if you really love your child — carefully examine your priorities. A little parental selfishness may give children what they need the most — confident, successful parents and a happy home surrounded by love.