One of the great perks of having children is that they help keep you from becoming too jaded. An overextended adult, strapped for time, money or creative ideas, might view Valentine's Day primarily as a boon for florists and card shops.
But kids adore the holiday. They revel in the traditional classroom card exchanges. They thrill to the cheerful red-and-white decorations. It's a special day infused with love and affection -- a day to "show your heart." Throw in the pink-frosted cupcakes and some chocolate, and you have to ask, "What's not to like?"
Valentine's Day starts me thinking about all the different ways families express their love to one another -- not just on Valentine's Day but on any given day. I asked some elementary school-aged children I know to tell me what their parents do to "show their hearts." The kids' answers ranged from "tucking me into bed at night" and "making me the foods I like" to "playing games with me when I'm sick." Maybe it was just a fluke, but not one respondent in my mini-survey mentioned buying gifts. I was impressed with the kids' ability to recognize the tangible expressions of true parental love and devotion.
One mom I know believes that a good way to show caring is to do something for loved ones that they can do for themselves. Her two boys are old enough to fix their own breakfast in the morning, but she does it for them out of love, not duty. Each morning, she affectionately ties her husband's necktie for him, although he's perfectly capable of making a knot. She says her involvement doesn't make her family any less sufficient, and it gives her a chance to dispense hugs and loving pats as they start the day. It seems to me that she is very good at "showing her heart."
No doubt about it, written affections are important, too. In fact, one billion valentine cards are sent each year. I'll send some to my loved ones, including two carefully chosen ones for my children. It's a small thing, but another way to make my love visible.
This post originally appeared on the Highlights for Children Aha! Blog