Reality Check: How Do I Love Thee?

I remember the first Valentine's Day I spent with the man who's now my husband. We were students, and I found my dorm-room bed showered with rose petals and chocolates '- along with a poem inviting me to an evening of enchantment he'd planned for me. It obviously turned out to be pretty enchanting because shortly thereafter we were married with children.

When we were first married, we kept that magic alive '- I'd wake up to a decadent breakfast in bed, my husband biting a rose between his teeth. I'd greet him wearing something new and silky. Four children later, February 14 '- not surprisingly '- looks a lot different. Now all my husband has to do to be my knight in shining armor is come up with a babysitter sometime during the month.

But the truth is, the kids have made Valentine's Day a lot better. With all the chaos they bring to our lives, sometimes they can actually make things wonderfully simple. Having a kid crystallizes everything, helping you sort through the fluff to get to '- forgive the pun '- the real heart of the matter. Far from being a romance killer, kids provide endless opportunities for a couple to show each other how much they really care. You'll never persuade me that anything says "I love you" more then letting your exhausted partner sleep soundly when the baby has just woken up for the fourth time in an hour.

Sure, kids may temporarily stifle the passion. My husband still can't get over the fact that the chocolate body paint we got as a gift ended up as a pretzel dip during a particularly rabid pregnancy craving. And yes, the most action we'll likely get is playing footsie across the feverish little body squirming between us. But when my husband comes in from the freezing cold late at night laden with grocery bags to save me a trip to the store, I know I'm loved in a way that not even the most eloquent poet could express.

For every clichéd and overpriced gift on the market, there's something right at home that any tired mom would instantly prefer. Here are a few things on my list that hubby can try this year:

  • Skip the roses and put away a few loads of laundry for me any day.

  • I can buy chocolates for myself (and I'll be honest '- I do every time I'm at the checkout), but only someone who truly cares will take the kids and give me the time alone to, well, just be alone.

  • Like every woman, I light up when gifted with something sparkly. But why not go for a clean kitchen sink at the end of a long day? Or better yet, a clean bathtub, perhaps even filled with bubbles '- and no strings attached.


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