My mother was more interested in the celebration of family love during the month of February than she was in the celebration of romantic love. To encourage this focus on family, she started a tradition called Secret Cupid where we drew the name of a family member and secretly surprised him/her with gifts and acts of service during the week leading up to Valentine’s Day.
I will definitely continue this tradition with my own kids, and I’ve also decided to add a tradition of my own: Writing love letters to my children. Yes, gushy, sentimental (maybe even a little sappy) love letters. Whether they are babies who are too young to read their mother’s declarations of affection or teenagers who pretend to be embarrassed by such words, each year on Valentine’s Day, their mother will write them a mushy love letter.
The first love letter that I wrote my son was actually not written in February—it was written in April when he was seven months old. Noah was a very fussy baby, and for the first year of his life, I had trouble adjusting to being home full-time with him. But one day while we were running errands together, I had a “swell moment,” as I like to call it, when my heart about burst out of my chest from the love I have for him. I went home and started writing. The words of adoration poured out of me as I thought about every little thing that I love about him:
Sweetest Noah Boy,
You smiled up at me today from your car seat, perched in the back of a shopping cart at Target, and I couldn’t breathe for a moment. I couldn’t breathe and I couldn’t move. This happens to me sometimes, when your eyes fill with that utter contentment, that expression of complete devotion and total trust—like I am the most perfect being on the planet, like there is nowhere you would rather be than shopping at Target with your mama.
Something in my soul stirs when you look at me like that. I can’t breathe because I know that I am so undeserving of such pure and guileless love. I can’t move because I already feel the moment flying away, and I long to grab it—to clutch it tightly in my fist and press it deeply into my pounding heart. I look at your innocent little face, beaming up at me with two tiny teeth poking through the gums, and I know that I will do anything—anything—to protect you and your heartbreaking sweetness.
I love your pensive expressions, your chubby hands reaching for my finger, and your frantic splashing in the bathtub. I love your wild blonde hair, your delicious thighs, and your fascination with the blow dryer as it hums in my hands. I love your dinosaur noises during church and your spontaneous chuckle of approval when you are lounging in your car seat.
I love seeing you with your dad and knowing, in that most tender and sacred place in my heart, that despite all my shortcomings, you are both mine–and you both love me so completely.
I love that you have your birthparents’ eyes: Katie’s color, Drew’s shape. Every time someone comments on your beautiful eyes, I am filled with joy and thanksgiving–for the gift that you are in my life, for the gift that they are in my life. I would not be a mother without them. I will never forget their sacrifice.
I love that my heart now lives outside of my body, and that I get to watch it growing and grinning and learning. It feels miraculous and vulnerable, exhilarating yet imprudent—to let my heart learn to walk, inching its way along the furniture, falling occasionally and sprawling across the carpet, bewildered.
Soon, you will be running. The baby with the adoring blue eyes will run, and I will let you—my heart growing bigger and stronger with each of your strides.
It was there inside of me all along—instinctive and unconditional—and yet I didn’t know it until I held you for the first time. Staring into those deep blue eyes, those eyes that were just seeing the world for the first time, I couldn’t breathe and I couldn’t move. I felt the stirring of something emerging, something swelling and coming alive within my heart—
Though Noah was too young for this letter to mean anything to him, it meant something to me. It comforted me to express such overflowing love for my son, in the midst of days that sometimes felt long and difficult. It put the joy of motherhood back into perspective as I focused on the precious moments that I share every day with my sweet baby.
A love letter can be written any time of year, but I am hoping that making it at least a yearly tradition in February will ensure that I never forget to stop, reflect on the unique qualities of each of my children, and express to them just how loved they truly are.
QUESTION: What are some of the “swell moments” that you’ve had recently with your children, when your heart feels like it is going to burst due to the love that you feel for them?
CHALLENGE: Set aside some quiet, contemplative time to write “love letters” to your children about the moments that you treasure with them. Don’t obsess about your writing being perfect or even totally adequate in expressing such deep emotions–just get some words down on paper, so these moments will never be lost or forgotten.
Pictures courtesy of Rachel Nielson