My twelve-year-old posed this question. With the days of the sparkly Valentine’s box and confetti-decorated, pink cupcakes mostly behind us, I pondered my own questions.
Who is this boy? What is he like? What does it mean to be someone’s Valentine when you’re twelve?
I’m thinking maybe they could swap chocolate hearts or cookies. Maybe they would sit together at the lunch table.
Bada-bing-bada-boom. Done, right?
I was wrong.
“Mom. He goes to a different school.”
“So, you’re a bit young for long distance relationship.” I sarcastically quipped, not thinking too much about it.
“Mom, he used to go to my school. He moved away and now he has cancer,” she said, her eyes begging for me to be serious.
Cancer. Shit. I thought I was young for cancer. Cancer—that unfathomable thing that robs children of hair, of innocence, of life—can instill a child’s classmates and friends with fear. I remembered all to well being held hostage by a young man’s cancer when I was young.
This was serious. How could I protect her? What could I say?
“Oh, sweetie. I’m sorry. I’m sorry he has cancer. What about you? How do you know this boy? What does it mean to be someone’s Valentine?”
“He’s a friend. I just don’t know how to answer him.”
I didn’t either.
I found myself in the cross hairs of memory. When I was sixteen, a young man suffering from cancer, who was enamored with me cornered me. Alone during the day in a hospital he wrote me letters, called me, sent heart doodled notes to me through a cousin. He thought he was going to die from his cancer treatments, especially if he couldn’t see me.
I didn’t know this boy—from a neighboring school and church activities—that well. Because it made me more quesy to talk about it, I didn’t. My parents had no way of knowing they could have coached me through those difficult weeks.
How could I spare my daughter the same? Should I? And, would it really be the same?
But, most importantly, how to engage this normally quiet-about-such-things-daughter so she would stay open about this?
“Mom. Mom? I’ll just ask him what he means by Valentine.”
Wow. Why didn’t I think of that?
But wait. I had. I just had not told her what to think. I had merely posed the question.
Comforted by the confidence and caring in her voice, I knew she was on her way to tending to this delicate situation of the heart that had given me a window into my own.
What stories of the heart have caused you to reflect on your own or that of another this Valentine’s season?
I clearly remember a particular Valentines Day when I was in Middle School. I had my heart broken IN THE SAME HOUR I broke someone else’s heart. Talk about an emotional day!
I like the whole idea of Valentines Day but I think it can be a tricky, confusing, and sometimes upsetting holiday for people. February 14th is the day we tell people what? I love you? I like you. I care about you. I think about you…sometimes, often, or constantly. I think you’re cute. I find you adorable. I think you’re hot. Love ya like a grandmother, love ya like a mother, love ya like a sister, love ya like a neighbor. Love ya like I wish I could spend the rest of my life growing old with you. Which one is it?
I think the answer is; it’s all the above messages.
Valentines day is the day we have permission to tell or show people (and pets) that they make us feel good inside and that “good feeling” is sometimes hard to define. “Will you be mine?” is just Cupid’s way of saying “You make me feel special.”
I think your daughter’s answer to her own question is the best way to handle her delicate situation. “I’ll just ask him what he means by Valentine.” That’s incredibly insightful for a 12 year old.
Renee, this is tender territory. Your daughter seems wise beyond her years. Kristi, I loved your response… Valentine’s Day puts a lot of pressure on people in confusing ways. THanks for this post~
Thanks Susan. I have so struggled with writing about my kids, but that’s where the real learning for me is at: when my kids teach me things. It’s such a powerful nexus…
I love this rap sheet of “What IS Valentine’s anyway??” Great insights!
What a sweet daughter and a sad story. Thought-provoking post, Renee.
What a sweet story. Your daughter is so thoughtful and tender in not wanting to hurt the young boy’s heart. I remember so clearly how awkward dealing with boys was when I was young, and Valentine’s Day just made it more complicated! You are so lucky to have a daughter who will turn to you for advice–you are certainly doing a wonderful job!
Thank you! 🙂 I know another mom–Lisa–to whom I look for great parenting examples! Thanks for being there yesterday! Yes, Valentine’s can be complicated, esp at a complicated age! Thank you, Renee