I’m admittedly not a fan of Valentine’s Day. Yes, it would be nice to be showered with love every single day, but I’m a realist (and perhaps a bit of a cynic) and real life tends to get in the way of love showerings. It's not the overly sweet professions of undying love but the pomp and circumstance that cause me to give Valentine’s Day a hard pass. Flowers die, chocolates are great (but not for my thighs) and by the time our wait is over at a restaurant on the 14th, I’m hangry.
Until…I think about my children.It’s impossible to reflect on a holiday specifically for love and not consider the many types of love that exist. It’s even more impossible to not enjoy a holiday when you make it about your kids. Not only are you now celebrating the unconditional love you have for your children that all parents have naturally, but the gratitude that exists for how our military kids handle and embrace this life that they did not choose.
Our kids are steady and resilient through the many changes and challenges our families face year after year. As someone who grew up in one town with most of my family in a 10 mile radius of my home, I am in constant awe at how our children adapt and bloom where they are planted over and over again without question.
I imagine that sending a parent off to a war zone changes you in a way that even a spouse can’t fully comprehend. Sure, we can sympathize. As spouses, we miss the partnership, the intimacy and friendship of our service member. But, children? They are missing literally half of how they’re made -- DNA or not. Their role model, their reassurance and one of only people in the world who know them better than they know themselves is no longer always available.
From that experience they are thrust into an early state of acceptance, perseverance, discipline and responsibility that their civilian counterparts wade into a bit more slowly. I’m not suggesting that our kids are a monolith, all just gliding through their parent’s comings-and-goings, all while transitioning to a new school, new state, new friends with ease. Quite the opposite, actually. Even when they have struggles (and there will be struggles), the community they’re a part of --“military brats”-- somehow have a way of ending up feet planted firmly in the ground.
I love that they get “it."
They have the understanding that all we do in this lifestyle, the moves, the separations, the deployments, the missed celebrations -- they know it's all wrapped up in love for our country. With that comes an early realization that sacrifice from every single family member is required, themselves included. The best part? They aren’t even aware of how extraordinary they are. Extraordinary is their normal, and for that reason alone it’s important that we show them gratitude and celebrate who they are and what they do.
So from now on when I see Valentine’s décor set out in stores on December 26th and prepare to roll my eyes and complain about how commercialization is ruining our lives (have I mentioned that I’m also a bit dramatic?), I’ll stop myself and adjust. Instead, I’ll see those little teddy bears, flowers and red and pink candies as a reminder of my littles who have adjusted more than a person should have to at their young ages. I’ll make it my goal to ensure my soldier knows the depth of my love every day, but I’ll use Valentine’s Day to reinforce the incredible amount of love and appreciation we have for our children.