My life, designed by me.
Today is Valentine’s Day. My husband and I have plans for a brief yet meaningful rendezvous this evening, in between taking one child to sports practice, feeding another one and dropping the littlest at the babysitter. We are going for quality of time over quantity this year! Like couples all around the world we are engaging in a day dedicated to love and stopping our whirlwind lives for a just a brief moment to acknowledge that we love each other. We try to do this more often and we do make sure that we tell each other often. There is something more magical about reconnecting on Valentine’s Day though. It is nice to be in love, amongst others who are in love. And there is something very uplifting about hearts and flowers.
However, someone has beaten hubby to the punch today. Another man, albeit a little one, has stolen my heart already.
Our ‘baby’, our five year old, who has been at big school for a mere two and a half weeks and is still finding his feet there, gave me a pine-cone this morning.
I have managed to negotiate my work hours to do the school drop off in the mornings. I wanted to be the familiar face that he sees when he goes into class, weighed down by an over-sized school bag, still learning the routines, his boyish resilience and tentative nature delicately balancing each other out. I need to be there to give the encouraging wave as he bravely starts this amazing new chapter of growth. Maybe this is for both of us. Maybe I need to be there to wave him off, for myself as much as him. To let him know that no matter what I will always be there, waving encouragingly from the sidelines.
We arrived at school early enough for a bit of a play today. He enjoys this time, a chance to relax and stretch his legs after the long car journey and to be a little boy, avidly exploring his new surrounds. His school is a lovely place and it is reassuring to watch him so eager to become at home there. After playing and climbing for a few minutes he came and took my hand.
“Mum, mum, you have to come and look, come with me, come and see!” he was exuberant. Is there anything more excitable that a 5 year old child?
He took my hand and I wondered if I was overstepping the boundaries here. Should I have denied him, to promote his independence at school? Should I have encouraged him to show one of his classmates instead? In the end I could not say no to my excitable little boy. Whatever he wanted to share was a part of his new daily world. It was important that I saw it. He ran ahead, leading me to the fence.
“There, look mum, there! A cockatoo!” My son loves cockatoos. Through the fence, in the area where the small children are not yet allowed to play, he saw a sulfur-crested cockatoo and pointed it out delightedly to me. I smiled at him. He has a knack for appreciating the littlest, most simple things.
We headed back toward the rest of the mothers and children and he stopped to pick up a pine cone.
“Here, mum, this is yours. I found it just for you,” he smiled, his innocent, disarming little smile and looked at me with such love I almost melted on the spot.
“Thank you, sweetie,” was all I could think to say. To him, it was just a pine-cone. He saw it, liked it and wanted to give me something from him. To me it was so much more. It was him, giving me a little piece of his new world to keep with me. It was also such a nostalgic gift for me. It took me back to my time, when I started school, back before schools became so clinical and safety was more important having fun and being kids. There were no padded sports areas at my school. If we fell over, we bled, cried, we healed we did it again a week later. Parents did not threaten to sue over unsafe equipment and we were all the more resilient for it. We were allowed to climb on stacks of big rocks, climb the trees and collecting pine-cones was fun. I remember bringing home so many of them. They were a gift from the trees, intricately formed, hedgehog-like, woody structures that could be kept forever. They didn’t disintegrate like the brilliant autumn leaves that faded from resplendent sunset hues to brown and withered in the space of days. Pine-cones were a treasured find for a small child.
As the music played, the signal for all the children big and small to form neat lines, greet their teachers and begin their day, my son broke the line to give me a huge hug. Maybe he was feeling a bit more in need of me today. I didn’t need to think about responding to him. He can hug me all he wants before he goes through those doors. He can show me cockatoos and give me pine-cones to his heart’s content. That little piece of time this morning that we shared, before he started his commitments for the day and I headed off to fulfill mine, was precious.
Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be about love in a romantic sense. It’s a celebration of love in all its forms and delightfully heartwarming gestures that our family, friends, children and even our pets, make towards us to make us feel loved.
So, today, even before my husband and I spend our little piece of alone time together and reflect on how far we have come and how we have grown together over the years, I have already had my heart filled with love. From a little boy and a pine-cone.