Dr. Mary Manz Simon © 2017
I want to reach out and grab it, before the love floats away. Because on this single day each February, love is all around.
After all, this is the month of candy hearts on the coffee table and white doilies glued to red construction paper. The word doesn’t change through the years, but the depth of the emotion changes during the seasons of parenting.
The excitement and passion of romantic love gives way to familiar comfort as the anniversary years add up. The wonder and amazement at the birth of a child gets buried in a flurry of baseball games and gymnastics lessons. In some families, love gets lost in a tangled web of broken relationships and fractured hearts.
Children learn quickly that the very word, “love” can be quite useful. Even a three year old knows that saying “I love you” can trigger mommy cuddles; a tween adds “I don’t love you” to emphasize a point.
In the next twenty-four hours, how many times will your child say the word “love”? Listen for these phrases:
You don’t love me as much as __________.
Most parents would agree that we have a responsibility to help each child develop and celebrate his God-given gifts. But most parents would also agree that it’s hard to raise children without making comparisons.
And yet each child has individual strengths on which we can build. Sometimes abilities and gifts are buried under a strong-willed nature, the moodiness of adolescence, or the hurt of neglect. Each child has a right to be loved for who he is.
Do you love me?
We often assume children know we love them. Yet even the most casual observer would question our love when we yell at a child for dropping a spoon from the high chair or overreact to a report card. Love can get all mixed up with other emotions and even lost in the hassles of everyday life.
Years ago, a mom made the commitment to tell her child at least once a day, “I love you, and Jesus loves you, too.” That’s an appropriate resolution for each of us this Valentine’s Day 2017.
If you loved me you wouldn’t make me…empty the garbage…turn off my tablet…come home early on school nights.
Love is often a handy trigger for parental guilt. It’s true that love is unconditional, but showing love involves setting limits. Because we love our children we teach them about responsible behavior. Because we love our children we require them to meet certain expectations. And we do these things not because it’s easier (often it’s much harder) but because we love them.
If you loved me you would…take me to Disney World…give me a smartphone…serve me ice cream for breakfast.
At an early age, children discover that love can be an effective negotiating tool. Manipulating the word “love” and the accompanying emotion has triggered countless impulse purchases in the checkout line at the grocery store.
Giving things will never replace giving love. Our gift of self—attention, time, affection—is the essence of parental love.
If you loved me, you would forget that I…didn’t make my bed…hid my phone under my bed…left my bike outside in the rain.
Human nature makes it tough to forget, but because we are Christians, we can forgive.
I’ve never met a perfect child or a perfect parent, but because Jesus loves us, you and I can forgive our children. Because Jesus loves us, our children can forgive us. “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). These words are a blessing every day.
Yet even on Valentine’s Day, love can get buried in the busyness. I know: I had three children in less than four years. Life in those years was often chaotic; I’m not sure it’s settled down yet!
I hope sleep-deprived parents will share the precious love children offer so generously when reading my newest book, Where Does Love Hide? Interacting with a young child who lifts the flaps of this fun book reminds us all that love can be found everywhere.
Challenge your child—and yourself—to discover where love hides at your house on this holiday. And if love seems a bit elusive, reach out with a hug, a caring word or a helping hand. You’ll uncover exactly where love hides.
Mary Manz Simon is an award-winning author whose titles have sold more than three million copies in the Christian channel and are available in ten languages. A long-time columnist for Focus on the Family, Mary has authored numerous articles for a variety of periodicals. Her speaking venues include Book Expo of the American Booksellers Association (BEA), National Religious Broadcasters (NRB), and International Retailing Show of the Christian Booksellers Association (ICRS). She serves as an adviser to MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) and was quoted in McCall’s magazine as one of “America’s top parenting experts.”