Love Means Buying All the Things

It’s the morning of V-Day, Henry woke up at his usual 6 a.m., and as I rolled out of bed, I began my usual scroll through last night’s Facebook posts. Lots of posts about people’s kids being their Valentines. And then I remembered. Nope. I did nothing for this holiday.

I’ve decided that maybe I’m the worst at Valentine’s Day. I dread Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day, and to a lesser extent Halloween and Easter, not because of what they stand for but because I know that somehow these holidays are going to make me feel inadequate as a parent.

I love to buy gifts for my kids. For Christmas. And birthdays. But some of the holidays in between have been injected with steroids and made to look just as big. Candy everywhere. Stuffed animals with little hearts. Pink and red and sweet sweet sweet.

Do you buy your kids Valentine’s Day gifts? I’ve run out of time this year; I had it in my mind for two weeks that maybe I could find something special for my little ones, even though we just finished a marathon of gift giving and receiving just six weeks ago, and yet I am still compelled inside to buy buy buy buy buy, buy more things to accumulate on top of the other things just so that they get some things on yet another holiday!  Things!

Who doesn’t like to receive a present? Really? I LOVE presents. Of course my kids love presents, for that thirty seconds it takes them to open each gift and then the five minutes it takes for them to play with it until it becomes like all of the other collected remnants of previous presents.

Gifts is one of the many ways we can show our children love. In my case, though, I suspect the greatest gift I can give my children is more of my time and attention. Maybe instead of feeling so much pressure to go out without them to buy them stuff to show them I love them, maybe instead, I ought to shut off my phone and my laptop and turn my attention on them, play with them, snuggle with them, read with them, give them my undivided attention, which is what I yearned for as a child, too.

The day, every day, lots of days, can be made special in any number of ways. We tend to overemphasize the gift component of showing our love to people in our culture, mostly because we’re a capitalist society driven by the success or failure of the economy, and all day long the television and the Internets tell us we better buy this car or that candy or this jewelry because that’s how she’ll know, that’s how she’ll remember you love her.

And that’s true. But it’s only partly true. The things they might need most from you today, and all of the days, are your presence, your encouragement, your help, your body snuggling against theirs on the couch. Expressions of love are meant to make us know that we are not alone. We are loved.

I’ll admit I’m also trying to make myself feel better about not having time to buy all the things for my kids for Valentine’s Day. So in basic self-justification mode, I’m ripping the giving of gifts for every occasion, and that’s not fair. It’s also focused on what I need to receive love, which is not usually gifts but more often time and attention, a body snuggling against mine. What are my kids’ needs? Love in all the ways. But it doesn’t need to come all at once, either.

I don’t need to buy in to the marketing schemes to spend more money that I don’t have in order to express love. But I do need to do something. I will love on my kids. I will love on my spouse. And it will be okay that they don’t have a huge spread of stuffed animals and candy and chocolate to accompany it.

Published by Sarah M. Wells

Sarah M. Wells is the author of The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Gospels to Help Kids and Parents Love God and Love Others (2022), American Honey: A Field Guide to Resisting Temptation (2021), Between the Heron and the Moss (2020), The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Bible to Help Kids and Parents Engage and Love Scripture (2018), Pruning Burning Bushes (2012), and a chapbook of poems, Acquiesce, winner of the 2008 Starting Gate Award through Finishing Line Press (2009). Sarah's work has been honored with four Pushcart Prize nominations, and her essays have appeared in the notable essays list in the Best American Essays 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2018. Sarah is the recipient of a 2018 Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council. She resides in Ashland, Ohio with her husband and three children.

2 thoughts on “Love Means Buying All the Things

  1. Sarah:
    To thy own self be true. Don't give in to the commercialization of love, which ends up being what the advertising world wants us to think each time the next holiday occurs. Your children, as you said, would prefer me time over any other gift that you could offer, and that me time becomes a special memory as time marches forward.


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