A few years ago I had my very first school Valentine’s Day experience as a parent. I took my then one-year-old, two-year-old and four-year-old boys to Target the week before V-Day and bought some valentines in the seasonal section. I believe that was the year we picked some kind of Transformer cards. I signed their names for them and sent their valentines to school in a ziploc as requested by the teacher.
It was easy, the boys had fun picking out a manly valentine and I felt really good about what we had accomplished.
Until days later.
I had been out of town the day of the parties and I remember coming home to neatly stacked papers from school and both of the boys’ Valentine’s Day bags sitting on the counter.
As I opened their bags, I was expecting tiny store bought cards just like ours but I soon realized I was actually looking at tiny works of art, hand-crafted by two and four year olds. It then occurred to me that preschool valentines weren’t exactly as I remembered them.
My store bought Transformer cards brought me shame as I pieced through the Pinterest inspired mountain of love and friendship in front of my eyes.
So the following year I gave into my shame. The haunting shame shaped how I felt about my parenting. I caved into hurtful phrases like “What kind of mother sends their children to school with store bought Valentines?”
This may seem laughable to you but at my very core this is truly what happened to me. I let something as simple as measuring up my preschooler’s valentine to someone else’s shape the way I saw myself as a mom.
I found my worth and value in a piece of paper passed out at school, instead of the deep ultimate satisfaction that can be found in my identity in Christ alone.
I let comparison steal my joy. And that stolen joy and the shame that went with it had me living to be someone who God just hadn’t made me to be.
I felt pressure to do Valentine’s Day like everyone else instead of being secure in who God made me to be, a store bought valentine kinda mom.
Year two I stressed about valentines. I researched Pinterest a month before Valentine’s Day. I selected a homemade craft valentine which included one hot wheel car per classmate. I was even impressing myself with my new found craftiness and I felt the ugliness and pride of a stroked ego when I thought about how other families may be impressed with my accomplishments as well.
There was no joy in making valentines with my kids that year. I trudged through the process. I was stressed and I was irritable over the valentines being perfect. There were even tears and some yelling at the boys because it all had to be just right.
Even when their bags came home and their valentines really had been some of the cutest, I still felt shame. The high I had felt from my impressive valentine was over before it even began. There was no lasting joy or pleasure. I had pressed on towards the goal of bringing praise to myself instead of bringing glory to a great God.
I became angry about how I let comparison steal my joy and how the valentines I made with my boys weren’t a reflection of sending out love and kindness to friends at all because our valentines were actually made as a byproduct of a month of stress with the intention to impress a crowd.
I took a step back and in the quietness of my heart I was convicted when I asked myself, “Who were those Valentines for?”
Even after ten years of walking with Christ it seems to me that I still find myself slipping in to old patterns. It is still so easy to find myself standing on the shaky, insecure ground of wanting to impress others and stroking my ugly ego instead of standing firm on the secure foundation of living for the glory of God alone.
I felt sick when I realized what I had done in year two.
Year three I found myself back in the seasonal section at Target with my kindergartener and my two preschoolers. I thought I had learned my lesson but just recently I found myself, here in year four, perusing Pinterest. I am thankful for my failure in year two because I now know for the love of bringing glory to God I have to ask, “Who are you doing this for?”
For the love of your reputation as a mom? Or for the love of doing something uniquely you and spreading love and kindness the store bought way with your kids.
Truth is, I am the kind of mother who buys store bought valentines and sends them to school for my kids to pass out at their class parties. It doesn’t make me worse or better. But it makes me uniquely me. And being uniquely me is enough for my kids, they told me they actually prefer buying their valentines from the store.
As I fight the valentine battle this year in my own heart I am hoping to find beauty in being ordinary and remembering that I am enough as a mom with my store bought cards. God says I am enough just as I am and that is the truth I am clinging to this February season.
I am enough with my store bought cards.