February’s Four-Letter Word

Valentine’s Day still mortifies me.  It’s as if my 36 year old self has no power over my insecure 7th grade self.  The problem :: I was that girl who never had a boyfriend.  But, honestly, what did I expect?  Frizzy permed hair.  Lingering “baby fat” {as my nana use to call it}.  And an intense discomfort around members of the opposite sex.  It was a stellar trifecta that made Valentine’s Day a complete nightmare for my tweeny-bopper little self.  It was a yearly reminder that I was missing out on a universal experience — one so profound that it received the same supreme honor as a ground hog {it’s own day} — the feelings of dread have stuck.  Over twenty years later that girl still makes this girl a Valentine’s Day hater.

Now before you plan an intervention, rest assured that my spiral perm eventually grew out.  Yes, years after my awkward adolescent stage passed I went on to marry a stud of man, known for surprising me with a beautiful pair of shoes or new bag on the much maligned February holiday.  Yet despite my husband’s best efforts, I can still think of several four-letter words in reference to Valentine’s Day, but none of them are THE four-letter word that seems to dominate the hearts and minds of people everywhere come February 14th.  L-O-V-E.

Love.  Now that’s a controversial four letter word.  It can mean so much – packed with emotion and promise and meaning and life.  It can also mean so little – packed with frivolity and flippancy and shallowness and lack.  Isn’t it intriguing how the English language can take a word so rich in meaning and trivialize it to the point that it is void of meaning?  I love my husband.  I also love pizza.  It’s practically criminal to use the same word to describe my feelings toward a tasty combination of bread, cheese, and meat as to the man whom I have sworn my lifelong fidelity and affection.  But, alas, this is the battle we’re up against with the word love.  And as mamas of littles, we should be particularly wise in our dealings with this four-letter word.
Throughout the history of time and undoubtedly in each of our hearts, love has been idealized, demonized, fantasized, and especially at this time of year – romanticized.  But what is it?  And how do we do it?  How do we instill in our children the depth of meaning of this one word that means so much but is used so cheaply?

As the mother of three boys, I think about these things.  I have to think about what my sons think about this word as they grow into men.  I don’t want to perpetuate false notions of what it means to love in these boys that I am raising.  As they mature, I want to encourage in them a deep appreciation for what it truly means to love and be loved. They need to understand that love is not so much a noun as it is a verb.  Not a thing, but a series of actions that insist upon the good of the other person over your own wants, needs, and desires.  Not a fleeting sensation, but a steady and secure life-line {even when it knocks you off your feet}.  I want my boys to know that, although a beautiful gift,  the “feeling” you get when you first love somebody is not what constitutes love.  I will teach them that if they chase after that feeling they’ll be running forever.  No, feelings ebb and flow, but love abides.  If I can just instill within my boys the truth of this one word, then surely I can rescue them from forthcoming heartaches galore.

Doesn’t every mama wish to spare her children from at least a few of life’s inevitable heartaches?  But how do we fit all these life-long love lessons into the precious few years that we have their attention?

The answer is as obscure as it is obvious.  By loving them well.  By loving their father well.  By loving others well.  These few years at the beginning of their lives, us mamas get to be the apple of their eyes.  We get to teach them what it means to love.  Our children take heed of every move we make.  What they see in us, they will emulate.  The hectic life of a mama is so full of constant demands that sometimes we give in to the tyranny of the urgent and neglect the heart of the matter.  We forget that the heart of the matter is pursuing their little hearts by loving them well.  We forget that the heart of the matter is continuing on in the pursuit of their father’s heart while their little eyes are still watching.  Somewhere in the midst of lunches and laundry and list-making, we must remember to love with intention.  Not with some over-realized Pinterest perfection, but with simple intention that is sacrificial and deliberate and never-ending.  That’s my focus – not just this February, but always – to press on through doing the hard heart-work of loving my boys well.

Being the Valentine’s Day hater that I am, my three little men will never expect heart-shaped pancakes on the morning of the 14th.  They will never enjoy pink and white home decor after Christmas is taken down.  And they will never have individual hand-stamped cards for each of their classmates.  My hope though, is that they will take a few love-lessons from their mama nonetheless.  I pray that one day they will love their own families as intentionally as I have loved them.

February Four Letter Word

Summer Bio

About Summer

Summer is the wife of her quasi-high school sweetheart Chris and stay-at-home mama to their three wild boys Cole {6}, Jacob {4}, and Joshua Paul {3}.  Although her 4 men keep her quite busy, she writes and teaches as often as she gets the chance.  With a Masters in Communication Studies and a love for Jesus, she’s on a mission to stir up in other women a passion for God’s Word through the writing and teaching of Bible Studies.  From marriage and parenthood to families and friendships, Summer has a knack for connecting Gospel truth to everyday life.  Connect with Summer over on her personal blog at {www.earlymorningmama.com}.


  1. You’re doing well teaching them the REAL meaning of love.

    Though even when we’re talking just romantic love, Valentines is a horrible celebration of it. I never minded it as a kid, or even when I was single. But once I did fall in love…it was not the wonderful day I expected. What do you get a guy on Valentines? What do you do on Valentines when you’re both broke? Still, we had some fun dates.

    But when we had kids…oh my word. Forget it. Forget Valentines. It was just too much trouble for too little. Getting a babysitter to go out to eat to a restaurant that was more crowded than any other time of the year? And this expectation that TODAY, on this certain day, we were expected to be romantic, on cue. It wasn’t like our anniversary…full of memories. This day was full of what other people thought love was.

    So, we let each other off the hook. We did not have to celebrate this. And then my husband showed up anyways one year, with a cheesecake (my fave), for “this sweet and cheesy holiday.” I laughed so hard, enjoyed the cake, and asked him to do that every year. So we do celebrate in our own way. But there’s no pressure anymore.

  2. I totally agree with you about teaching our kiddos to love others well and with intention. Life is fuller when it is about about loving others.

    Celebrating Valentine’s for me is also about taking the opportunities to say thank you to those you might forget during the year – Sunday School teachers, pastors, neighbors, people you see regularly in the day to day.

    Thanks for sharing your post!

  3. Summer,
    I LOVE this. The truth in your words convicted me strongly. As a mother of 3 boys as well, I worry if my husband and I are teaching them the right way to balance love and leadership. I also find myself worrying that I won’t create a strong enough bond and then therefor I will loose the to their future mate only to see them twice a year. In this worry, I allow myself to get swept up in making too much of the little things. Did I make perfect homemade valentines for all their friends and teachers? Did I volunteer enough hours at the school? Etc. Your words were perfect for me. Slowing down and just living them is the most important.
    Thank you for sharing.

  4. This article is very timely for me. Lately, I find myself thinking a lot about how to best love my kids. As a “task-oriented” person, I find it difficult to sit and just be with them. This is a great reminder to me. You are such a talented writer, Sum! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


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