Last night, my kindergartener was working on his valentines.Â With a pencil in hand and a class list on the table in front of him, he carefully penned each studentâ€™s name on a small Toy Story card.Â I looked over at him from time to time, smiling inwardly at his absorption, at his focus, at the way that he (in the time-honored tradition of all kids) was sticking his tongue out slightly as he wrote.
Being the mom of a kindergartener takes me me back to my own childhood Valentineâ€™s Days.Â I remember elementary school, and the excitement of receiving a small white envelope from everyone in the class.Â Inside would be a small cutout of a cartoon character, or a princess, or a whimsical animal, with my name and the giverâ€™s name carefully printed on the reverse.Â Sometimes the envelope bulged in one corner because a chalky pastel-colored heart candy had been tucked inside.Â More than once, a classmate accidentally wrote my name on the Valentine that said â€œFor You, Teacherâ€ â€“ an error which, given my current profession, was remarkably prescient.
There was something so sweet and pure about Valentineâ€™s Day back then.Â Alas, Â it didnâ€™t last.Â By the time I got to college, Valentineâ€™s Day â€“ more often than not â€“ was an unwelcome reminder of the fact that my romantic life was not progressing in the way that I thought it should.Â It was a day to feel alternately depressed Â about my own single state and envious of those women who got red roses or restaurant dinners from their boyfriends.Â Â That stage is in the past now â€“ ever since meeting Scott, V-Day has been redeemed Â â€“ but itâ€™s hard to forget those years when February 14th wasÂ more about wistfulness and cynicism than romantic love.
Thatâ€™s why, as I watch my six-year-old write his classmatesâ€™ names, Iâ€™m recovering a sense of the sweetness of a childâ€™s Valentineâ€™s Day. Â Â Once again, Iâ€™m seeing a day that is about inclusion rather than separation.Â In Â kindergarten, the cards are shared with everyone; no one is excluded.Â That is a class rule, admittedly, but itâ€™s an unnecessary one, because my son would do it anyway.Â He isn’t complaining about having to address a card to everyone.Â He isnâ€™t saying that he doesnâ€™t really like so-and-so.Â He wants to give everyone a Valentine. Â To him, itâ€™s perfectly natural that the heart-trimmed images of Buzz Lightyear and Woody and Jessie will be shared freely with all.Â Â Â I love that innocence and generosity.Â It strikes me as pureÂ agape, as love at its finest and most beautiful.
Thatâ€™s why Iâ€™ve been thinking lately that if you want to understand the love that God has for humanity, maybe a diamond necklace or a big bouquet of roses is not the most helpful image.Â Those are valentines intended for one person, and one person only.Â Instead, I like to think of Godâ€™s love as a batch of small cards, perforated at the edges and addressed with care, Â freely and unreservedly given Â to every single kid in the class.
Heart image from Karen’s Whimsy.
2 responses to “What a child’s valentines can teach us about love”