This year for Valentine’s Day, my husband and I had originally planned to do something together during the day since he was off. However, since our regular babysitters were booked (meaning both sets of grandparents were not available), we decided instead to do something as a family once Elijah was out of school.
From the moment we picked him up, our oldest had a bad attitude. He was all for going out to eat, but he did NOT want to go anywhere else (like, say, Hobby Lobby, which was going to be a treat for Mommy).
And the complaining started.
After being rather excited to surprise him with a special afternoon, I was frustrated and irritated with his lack of gratitude.
So, I tried explaining to him that Mommy and Daddy were trying to do something nice as a family, that we wanted to have a fun night all together, and that by complaining and whining about what we might do, he was not exactly showing his appreciation.
I reminded Elijah of the sweet way he had started my Valentine’s Day by creating a cute scavenger hunt for me through the downstairs, leading to some “flowers” he had made. I asked him how he would have felt had I not wanted to follow his clues or just took them down.
To his credit, Elijah realized how he was making us feel, and he apologized.
I thought everything was going to be good after that.
But then…he started pestering Josiah, who rarely backs down from a fight. And suddenly they were arguing and being nasty to each other, and I just wanted to turn around and go home.
So much for a special Valentine’s Day together as a family.
My husband, however, pulled out a question for the boys that had an immediate effect on the entire atmosphere in the car, giving hope to this discouraged Mommy.
He got them quieted long enough to ask Elijah, “What is something you love about Josiah?”
Of course, being a big brother, Elijah was tempted to take the teasing route, but Daddy headed him off, and answered the question himself.
Brad gave examples of why he loved not only Josiah, but Elijah, Isaiah, and Mommy, too.
“I love Josiah because he can be very sweet. I love Elijah because he is creative. I love Isaiah because he likes to cuddle. I love Mommy because she’s intelligent.”
Then I added my “what I loves” to the conversation.
“I love Elijah because he is curious. I love Josiah because he is compassionate. I love Isaiah because he has a funny sense of humor. I love Daddy because he works hard to take care of us.”
Josiah eagerly jumped in to share his.
“I love Elijah because he is nice. (Josiah is forgiving and quick to forget…Haha) I love Isaiah because he is cute. I love Mommy because she helps me. I love Daddy because he plays games with me.”
Finally Elijah was ready to prove that he could come up with his own answers to the question as well.
“I love Josiah because he is good at SurvivalCraft (a video game they play). I love Daddy because he’s silly. I love Isaiah because he’s fun. I love Mommy because she cooks good food.”
And suddenly, the boys weren’t fighting, but rather happily telling each other and us all the different things they could think of that they loved about everyone. We didn’t just stop after we each took a turn, but let them continue as long as they would.
It was part game – the challenge to see what new reason they could come up with – and part fun curiosity – they were delighted to hear what everyone else loved about them.
In the busyness of every day family life, it can be easy to forget to speak out those things to our children and spouse. We’re quick to correct faults and criticize, especially when things get stressful or overwhelming.
However, taking the time to not just say, “I love you,” but to list the wonderful qualities and traits in our loved ones, is edifying both to them and us. I definitely felt more loved and appreciated when my boys spoke specific things that they cherished in their mommy. Then as I thought about what I wanted to say about my husband and for each of my boys, I was reminded anew of what precious, unique, and wonderful little people our children are and how blessed I am with my husband.
Did our boys fight again that night? Of course. They’re kids. However, it wasn’t in the same nasty tones as before.
We were able to spend our evening together knowing that each person in our family was loved very much by everyone else. Of all the special things we did together for our Valentine’s night that was the most special part of all.
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