With young kids in the house, it can be easy to feel frazzled and like you never quite ‘have it together.’ Your hair remains unbrushed, and the house is never as tidy as you wish. So the first stop in this journey of Love is yourself. Tell your toddler that today is a very, very special day, and you’re going to spend all day getting ready. If it’s too late to do it for Valentine’s Day today, do this tomorrow. If you work, do it this Saturday. If you’re married, your spouse will be surprised and extra-pleased to have this come on a day when it’s not expected. Here’s what to do:
Getting the House Ready
Mid-day, spend some serious time making the house special with your toddler. The two of you can tidy up the living and dining rooms, can wash the kitchen floors together, and clean up in some way that’s above and beyond what you normally do, clearing off the table in the entryway, or the sideboard, or polishing the table. As you’re doing it, talk with your child about how much Daddy or Mommy’s going to love to see this when he or she gets home. If the other parent doesn’t live with you, simply talk about how much you and your child are going to love this space when you’re done, about how you’re making it special. Then make it extra special by putting a tablecloth on the table, put candles all around the room, and put some flowers or something else that’s beautiful in the center of the table.
Getting Yourself Ready
While your child is taking his afternoon nap, instead of using it as time to catch up on things, use this time to take a bubble bath. Wash your hair, shave your legs (if you shave them!), and when you get out, put on special lotion that you love the scent of, cut your toenails, and do whatever you can do to pamper your body and feel beautiful. At each step, take a moment to appreciate this body of yours. We often forget our bodies, or even try not to pay attention to them, but today, on this day of love, give some love to your very own body.
Getting Your Child Ready
When your little one wakes up from naptime, take a little extra time with him or with her, today. Light a candle to make the space special, and sit on the couch and snuggle together. Brush their hair while he’s sleepily sitting on your lap. Rub his feet with lotion. Tell him how much you love him and how glad you are that he was born into your life. Tell him about how before he was born, you hoped and prayed that you would have a little boy, and his parents got ready for him together, and now that he’s here you love him so much. Or, if he was unplanned, tell him about how you were living your life and you didn’t even know that you needed a little boy, but he knew that you needed him. And when he came, he was the best surprise you had ever had. Make the story real, so it fits the situation, but also make it a little bit magical, a fairytale.
After he wakes and has a snack, you can spend the afternoon making Valentines for each person that you love. Decorate them together, and write on each one what you appreciate about that person. Dig deep and go broad, and let your child contribute. These are special letters to let the people in your life know how much you appreciate them.
“Dear Mom, Cedar and I are sitting here together and thinking about how much we love you. We love having you come to visit, and we wish you could visit more often! I love how I know I can call you whenever I need to, and I especially appreciate the support you gave me when things were hard this fall. Cedar loves (ask Cedar what he loves about Grandma and write it down) your big hugs. I want to tell you how much I loved the time you spent here after Cedar was born. Cedar says he loves your dog Brandy. I love how you always tell me what a good mother I am. It means a lot to me. Thank you. Happy Valentine’s Day.”
Getting Ready for Mom or Dad
If the other parent lives with you, then the moment he or she gets home will be something special. You can warn him or her that you and your child have been preparing something special or choose to leave it a surprise. When he or she is on the way home, get ready for him or her. Dim the lights, light the candles, put on some soft music. When he or she comes in, greet him or her with a smile and a kiss. You and your child can give him the Valentines that you made for him that afternoon.
Then eat dinner together, and make it as special as possible. Even if the food you’re having is not special, you can make the meal special by eating by candlelight. By keeping soft music on if you don’t usually listen to music during dinner, or by turning the music off if you usually do. If you have special plates or glasses, use them. Have something special to drink, wine if you like that, or sparkling water with a splash of cranberry juice. If dad or mom doesn’t live with you, you can do all of these special things with your child.
Put your child to bed a little early tonight, fifteen minutes or half an hour. Chances are good that he will still sleep to his normal time tomorrow morning. Use the evening to let your partner know how special he or she is to you, and how your life is better for having them in it. If your partner is not present, use the evening to call the important people in your life, your parents, close friends. If they are out celebrating Valentine’s Day themselves, think of how happy they’ll be to come home and hear that message from you. And if you didn’t get the chance for that bubble bath during the afternoon, now’s the time!
Reprinted with permission from Joyful Toddlers
Faith Collins is a LifeWays graduate and founder of Joyful Toddlers, providing support for parents and professionals who live or work with children from 1-5 years of age. See www.joyfultoddlers.com. She currently divides her time between Colorado and London.