Valentine’s Day is approaching. It’s February. It’s all about our hearts, right?! I’ll be spending it with my daughter. Whenever I leave a note for her, for as long as I can remember, I always draw two hearts. A larger heart with a smile in it (mine – she makes my heart smile), and a smaller one the same way for her. Sort of like this:
What does it mean to love someone? The first part is the definition. There are so many different definitions for the word love. To me it is: “Love is a verb.” I’ll never forget how shocked I was to hear that many, many years ago. It has always stuck with me. We don’t always have warm and fuzzy feelings for the people we choose to love, but we work through problems (or try to, anyway) because in the end we know that our relationship is worth it. Siblings, parent/child, friends… Whatever the relationship is, we know there will be times we don’t’ see eye-to-eye. Love is a verb. It takes work to keep any relationship healthy.
That is especially true with a child. Our vulnerable children. I just returned from my daughter’s school for a presentation on Child Assault Prevention (CAP.) One form of abuse is neglect. I know this to be very true. One of the handouts we were given is titled “50 Ways Family Members Can Say “I Love You.” It got me to thinking how easy it is to forget sometimes. A few of the suggestions listed: Say please and thank you. Speak kindly. Make “I love you” the last thing you say every night. Say “Good morning!” cheerfully every morning. The list goes on and on, with fifty very simple things. But when we are stressed and hurried (and dare I say angry?) it can be so easy to forget just how important the few words, the smile, the warm hug can be. Even when we are angry. Maybe even more so then.
I am taking this evening to refocus on what is truly important in my life. It is way too easy to get wrapped up in the daily grind. I often tell my daughter that I love her. I show her with hugs and kisses. I tell her that there is nothing more important to me than her health and happiness (and I believe the two are very tightly intertwined.) I try to show her with my actions, which isn’t always easy and sometimes makes me unpopular. Also from the list: State limits and consequences clearly and implement consequences consistently. Kids don’t always get “I love you so I’m punishing you!” But I do believe that in the end the appreciate the structure and the rules. It’s their job to test the boundaries. It’s our job to show them that the boundaries are there to keep them safe, healthy, and ultimately happy.
What does it mean to love someone? The second part is much more complicated to understand, but the beauty of it is that we don’t have to understand it to feel it. Why the emotions of affection and love are attributed to a muscle that pumps blood never made a lot of sense to me! Love is in our brains, in our minds, in our chemistry. Why do we give chocolate for Valentine’s Day? Because food is love. Haven’t you heard?! “The dopamine system becomes active in people when they look at someone they love or a favorite food, Allen says. So in our brains, at least, food really is connected to love and a sense of well-being.” (NPR) Also, chocolate affects our brains in much the same way love does. “there are indeed pleasure-inducing and stimulating chemical compounds found in chocolate.” (Chocolate and the Brain.)
The comfort foods, the ones that make us feel good, that we equate with love, can be very tricky indeed. They are often not the healthiest foods, and more often addictive for those of us who are susceptible to them. My daughter and I will likely spend quality time together either making a relatively healthy dinner or possibly going out, and watching a movie. I strive to make the special occasions about feeling special. If you try to reach me that evening, you’ll have to leave a message. I will be turning my phone off and giving my daughter 100% of my attention. I know of no better gift.