After having a child of my own, I finally get why my mom keeps giving me Valentine’s Day gifts.
I don’t subscribe to the theory that you have to be a parent to understand certain things, but I can think of two exceptions for myself:
- I watched Freaks and Geeks and My So-Called Life again after the birth of my daughter, and I was caught off guard by how much I related to the mothers in the shows. I suppose when I watch Freaks and Geeks in another ten years, I’ll feel a special bond with the grandmother whose death kicks off Lindsay’s lane change at the beginning of the series.
- I didn’t realize how much my parents must have loved me as a child until I had one. And this was a gradual realization.
My relationship with my daughter has upgraded from “just keep her alive and healthy” to something more complex. I feel like my time spent with her now has more weight than it did when she was a roly poly sitting contently in a Boppy while life carried on around her. In her late toddler stages, parenting changed from practice to the game. We are making the memories and setting the examples that she will remember for real.
This has nothing to do with my parents, though. Although my own first memories of life are of being a three-year-old, they’re all related to E.T. However, during tough times with my daughter, when I am trying to be at my best but struggling against the current of a tantrum, or soothing her in the middle of night, or dealing with other pre-school-aged problems, I often think “my parents did this for me.” I don’t remember them doing these things for me, but they must have, because my love for them is based on a foundation that’s always been there. Pre-E.T.
They had to have had late nights with me or struggled for an hour to get me to put shoes away. There had to have been nights when I conned my way into their bed at 3:00 AM, and instead of sleeping, kept my mom awake with the brightness of a huge smile on my face because I was where I wanted to be.1
This idea gives me comfort. I never imaged that I was stored in a box in a closet as a baby, but it’s nice to have an idea of how your parents doted on you when you don’t have those specifics–also, I cannot confirm any of this. With three kids within five years, I’d be surprised if they had any true memory of which kid did what, and I’m willing to bet that my father’s memories of us have been taped over with episodes of That 70s Show.
This is my long-winded way of saying that I now get why my mom still sends me a Valentine’s Card.
I admit, that as a married woman in her thirties, I had in the past rolled my eyes when my mom sent me a card with a $20 bill and a note to buy a pizza. She still wants to buy me something for Easter, wants to get an outfit for me on my birthday, and makes a stocking for me on Christmas.
Some of these efforts now skip me entirely and she shows up with a plastic bag full of stuff for her granddaughter instead,2 but I understand why she still wants to give to her kids although they are adults who can provide for themselves.
Last year I prepared a Christmas stocking for my daughter for the first time, and I was more excited about it than anything else we got her, and I was able to share that little joy with my mom. It was stuff I thought she’d like, like her own tube of Burt’s Bees lip balm, markers, and temporary tattoos. I had fun watching her open it after breakfast. And I had fun opening my stocking from my mom (which contained at least five things that I had on a shopping list, like a pepper grinder).
Every year I tell my mom she doesn’t have to bother with a stocking, but every year I get one, and I love to open it. I love buying things for my daughter, too, but because she has so much already, I have to have a good reason to bring something else into the house. I recognize how easy it is to blow a lot of money on her, but I also live with the reality that our house is littered with dozens of toys that I secretly hope that the dog eats.
I was at Target or CVS (getting some dumb little thing) and was reminded that Valentine’s Day was happening. My husband and I don’t celebrate it,3 so it’s a non-event for me, but I realized I had another opportunity to shower some small gift on my daughter. I get to give into the urge to buy her a bunch of useless crap, and she gets the joy of getting candy and a silly toy. We are all happy (we also made some cards, too, to teach her it’s an output/input deal).
So “because it’s Valentine’s Day” she’ll get about $6 worth of things she would like, and I think she’ll be delighted by the surprise. Maybe I’ll keep it up when she’s an older kid, and maybe when she’s an adult. Then maybe when she’s 29 she’ll get a card from her 60-year-old mom, and I’ll wait by the mailbox/gift receptacle portal (depending on where technology is at this point) for a card from my 90-year-old mother.
Or maybe my mom just thinks I can’t afford to buy my own pizza? Either way, thanks, Mom. PIZZA ORDERED.
Photo by: Joe Dsilva