As we navigate motherhood, it’s impossible not to reflect on our own mothers. It’s impossible to not have a suddenly new understanding of the love she has always held for you. And it’s impossible not to look back and see the little things she did for you – a million little things that will be forever imprinted on your heart.
One of the million little things that my mom did for me was be my valentine.
I never had a lot of friends in school, mostly because I never really talked. I didn’t get chosen to play on kickball teams during recess, and I dreaded group projects because of all the inevitable extraneous chatter. But for the most part, none of this bothered me. I could go about my day, listening to the teacher and completing my work with no real issue, and chatting with the couple friends I had. Being the quiet girl in class was fine by me.
But then, there was always Valentine’s Day.
As a kid in elementary school, I was aware that I was the kid who got valentines because it was an obligatory card exchange. As kids giggled and talked with friends as they do on fun days at school, I sat quietly at my desk, looking at the valentines and simply knowing that I got them because the other kids had to give them to all their classmates – including me. No kid was particularly mean to me, but I also lacked that feeling of belonging, as I sat there alone while classmates socialized with their little groups of friends.
But every year, after a day of feeling this lack of belonging, I would get off the bus, climb the steps into my home, and there would always be a pink-frosted, heart-shaped cake, complete with rainbow sprinkles, waiting for both my sister and me on the kitchen counter. It was from my mom and she never made a big deal about it. Again, it was just one of the million tiny little things my mom did for me. But the impact was profound, and the significance of the gesture I’m only coming to realize now as a mother myself. While I spent the day as a kid being reminded that I didn’t have a ton of friends and no one, in particular, wanted to go hang by my desk and chat during our class parties, I stood there in my kitchen feeling joy and love bubbling inside. I was loved here. I belonged here.
Because my mom was my valentine.
This tradition of the pink-frosted, heart-shaped cake continued for years. As I got older, I felt the weight of my loneliness on days like Valentine’s Day, but every year, I would open my front door and see the little cake on the kitchen counter. It would always be sitting there, waiting for my sister and me to discover it. A little thing that showed so much love.
As I got older, Valentine’s Day changed but the lack of belonging persisted, as I would cringe as I watched people interrupting my classes all day to deliver little balloons, fake flowers, and candies for my school’s candy-gram drive. I was happy for the recipients of these little gifts, and I understood that candy-grams were a great little fundraiser for the school, but it didn’t help my feeling of loneliness that grew throughout the day as my lack of balloons, fake flowers, and candy became more and more apparent to those around me. I just wanted the day to be over.
And yet, I would get home that afternoon, open my front door, and there was the pink-frosted, heart-shaped cake from my mom.
Because, again, my mom was my valentine.
Moms do a million little things for their children to show them their immense love. A million tiny little gestures, like a tiny pink-frosted, heart-shaped cake, that might seem little in the moment, but the magnitude of the message they hold is profound:
You are loved. You are worthy. You are special.
These little Valentine’s Day cakes are one of those little things that conveyed that message to me. I don’t really think my mom made these cakes to make up for any feeling of loneliness I was experiencing; rather, I think she was just being a mom, who wanted to show her kids that they were thought of that day. Decades later, those little cakes, though gone now, have left the everlasting essence of my mother’s love in me.
My mom never said she was my valentine. I never said, “Will you be my valentine?” Instead, the wordless gesture of a little cake said it for us. Because now, as an adult, as I sit here thinking of my own overflowing love for my kids, I realize the very truth of the matter: moms are, and will always, their children’s valentines.
So, thank you to all the moms who make little cakes or write little notes or do those million little things that make them the very best valentines that their kids will ever have.
Happy Valentine’s Day, moms. You are all the very best.