LOVE: Family Style

Valentine’s Day 2009: Short trendy skirt, tall drink

Valentine’s Day 2019: Short toddler nap, tall coffee


In our family, it was around six years ago that Valentine’s Day stopped revolving around romantic love and started incorporating a different kind of love. You know, the kind of love that fills your heart even as you watch a nose being wiped across your work shirt: kid love. As any parent knows, kid love is a whole new level.  



Last Valentine’s Day, to celebrate, we bought sparkling grape juice and clinked fancy glasses with our young children. After the kids were in bed, my husband and I switched to real wine. Because, let’s face it, we needed it after enduring the tedious act of a preschooler writing out 20 Valentine’s Day cards for her classmates. And this year? Our plans are similar.

I asked my 3-year-old son what he thought about love. He gave me a thumbs-up and ran away. So I turned to my daughter who is in kindergarten this year. She proclaimed, “I love you more than all the hairs on all the carpet…in all the world!”

And there it was: kid love. It didn’t matter that I’d yelled about the banana peel left in the car or the mittens forgotten at school again. It didn’t matter that I was in my pajamas and slippers. Her love was there regardless. And though my son might not articulate it as well, his love is in every head-popping hug, every dash into my arms and every teary goodbye at preschool drop-off. This was not the kind of love I had ever imagined during those years of singles’ parties or candlelit dinners, but since my husband and I understand they won’t be this small forever, handing over a few Valentine’s Days seems OK. We can celebrate their love too. (Because I know it’s only a matter of time before asking them to hug and clink glasses with me will cause them to run the other way.)


The other night, I walked into my daughter’s bedroom to say goodnight. She dramatically covered her pillow with her arms. “What’s going on?” I asked, sitting on the edge of her bed. She didn’t say anything, but was obviously holding down her pillow. “Do you have something under your pillow? You’re not supposed to be looking at books after the lights are out, you know,” I said.

“I’m not,” she yelped. So I started to reach under her pillow. “No!” she shouted, throwing herself on top of it.

My brain went into a mom-tailspin, thinking: “She’s only five! She’s already hiding things from me? What doesn’t she want me to see? Is this the end of her being open with me? Is she old enough to have secrets from me? She’s done telling me every detail of the things that are important to her? What could she possibly have under her pillow that her mom shouldn’t see?” On the outside, I stayed calm and answered, “OK…I hope you will show me when you’re ready.”

Then she smiled and said, “I’ll show you when it’s Valentine’s Day, Mama. It’s a secret for you.” Her cherub cheeks were plump with her grin.

On the inside, I laughed at myself (while simultaneously sighing in relief and chastising myself for being more dramatic than my 5-year-old), but on the outside, I gave her a big hug. For now, we’re still best friends who tell each other everything. 



Gina Dewink is a writer, author and digital marketer living in Rochester with her husband and two children (