What I learned from watching my father on Valentine’s Day

What I learned from watching my father on Valentine's Day

Valentine’s Day was always a big day in our house

I remember excitedly following my dad through the door of my parents’ bedroom. He was carrying a tray with breakfast: eggs, toast, bacon, and some fancy touch like a strawberry cut into a flower, a tomato cut into a heart, or his famous orange cut into a purse. 

My mom was having a sleep-in and we all piled onto the bed to watch her open her gifts. 

No, it wasn’t Mother’s Day or my mom’s birthday; it was Valentine’s Day, and it was always a big day in our house. 

There are good reasons to celebrate Valentine’s Day

I’m sure the gifts varied over the years, but I remember they often included a chocolate heart-shaped box filled with my mom’s favourite truffles and a magazine so that, if it was a weekend, my mom could continue to relax while my dad took care of the rest of the day.

There was always a card that he had picked out carefully, with a sweet message of love. 

Our parents would give us little gifts as well. I remember one special year my older sister and I were given crystal heart-shaped boxes with necklaces inside, but I remember the day being about my mom. 

My mom showed her love through acts of service

I would describe my mom as being very traditional. I remember when I had my first baby, she told me a story about how I wouldn’t sleep through the night when I was a newborn. She remembered how she would finally get me settled, then look at the clock and realize it was time to help my dad get ready for work. Can you imagine? 

I remember in the morning, my dad would often call down, “Kath — what am I wearing today?” and she would call back, “I’m ironing it now!” or “It’s in the dryer!” She doted on all of us.

I didn’t do my own hair until I was in grade 9. Every morning, my sisters and I would take turns sitting in the chair, and my mom would ask, “What will it be today?”  

My high school was a two-hour trek by city bus, and my mom would get up with me at 5:30 a.m. and make muffins while I showered so I’d have a warm treat to take with me on the bus. 

There are even tales of everyone in the house being woken up with a warm towel during the winter, though I had already left for university at that point. 

I think this was the way she showed her love: acts of service. 

She didn’t ask for or receive a lot of thanks day-to-day from us kids, if I’m being honest, but looking back, I saw days like Valentine’s Day as a time to demonstrate how much she was loved and appreciated. 

There are good reasons to celebrate Valentine’s Day

As I grew up, I heard all the reasons why people don’t like Valentine’s Day: you can go for a dinner out any day, it is expensive and commercialized, and you shouldn’t need a day to demonstrate you love somebody.

As a young adult, I would nod in agreement whenever the conversation would arise, but then I would add, “Yes, but I think when you’re married, and you have kids, and life is busy, it’s nice to have a day to remind you to do something special.” 

I should be clear: my dad did things on other days, and he did a lot around the house. Orange “purses” made appearances a few times a year, and if you had a friend over for lunch, you could expect some over-the-top tea-party style spread if dad was in charge of cooking. But I always loved the way he treated my mom on special occasions. 

I love making others feel special and teaching my kids to be thoughtful

Funny enough, it didn’t set me up for a life of high expectations for the men in my life. Instead, I have come to value making others feel special and demonstrating my gratitude and love, whether it’s making special occasions a big deal or smaller gestures for friends and family when they seem down.

I’m working to instill this in my children as well, encouraging them to think of how they want to spoil their dad on his birthday and involving them in cookie and card deliveries to neighbours around the holidays. I love it when I see them doing something thoughtful for others.

It was my parents who instilled these values in me, and every Valentine’s Day I’m reminded of how lucky I am to have had their example of devotion, kindness, and service to others.

To this day, my sisters and I look forward to the picture that will be posted in our family group chat on February 14: a plate of pancakes with a whipped-cream heart, sausages, and a strawberry flower, all prepared for our mom by our dad.

“My breakfast” will be the caption from mom — two small words which nonetheless encapsulate a lifetime of love.

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