We don't celebrate Valentine's Day in our house. We feel rather curmudgeonly about the amount of money spent on the holiday (billions and billions of dollars) and the amount of paper wasted on all those little cards sent to school for Penny's and William's classes. And we try to sprinkle some romance throughout the year. I much prefer flowers from my husband at random, and, yes, that does happen (though very infrequently, I must admit).
But tonight held this moment that made me think I might have something to say about Valentine's Day after all. It had been a long week already. William has been home sick with a fever, though he's on the mend. Marilee's molars are coming in. Penny has allergies. Peter and I are sniffling. We're still catching up from a few weeks of babysitter transition. And, well, sometimes it's just tough to have three kids.
So I came home with all three of them from our weekly Music Together class. Penny and William had bickered a few times. I had warned Penny to "control her hands" at the dinner table, after she dumped a box of unused Valentines onto the table. I had told William he must turn his placemat so that the flower side (rather than the cork side) faced up. I returned to the kitchen and came back with their dinners. Penny was prone across the table, reaching for an orange Tinker Toy. William was slapping the placemat, cork side up. I pulled her into her seat, roughly, and threw the placemat across the room. Within seconds, William was sobbing. Penny's remorseful little face peered up at me, her eyes pooling with tears even as she bit her lip. Marilee, not quite clear on the source of the problem, nevertheless has taken to mimicking her brother and sister, so she started yelling.
It took a few minutes to calm every one down. Some deep breaths and big hugs. And then we prayed. We prayed for God's presence to come into our household. We prayed for peace amidst the chaos and love amidst the anger.
We sat down together, and we each shared how we had made a bad choice. "I made a bad choice when I didn't listen, Mom," said William. "And you made a bad choice when you threw my placemat across the room." And then we all said sorry. And we all said, "I forgive you."
And I thought, well, yes. This is what love is. For all the feelings of love I have for my children day in and day out, it's the moments of frustration and weariness and anger that actually push those feelings into action. Love is patient. Love is kind. Love humbles me.