I Heart My Girls

It's been some time since I last posted. It seems to go like this--spurts of energy for blogging and then a dry spell and then a return to the posting (at least I hope I'm back at it for a little while). So, it's been nearly a month since Valentine's day, but I at least wanted to give it a little attention, as it was a notable one for me this year.

I don't, or I guess I should say didn't, care much about the holiday. It has always seemed like sort-of a silly, Hallmark holiday, focused so much on consumption and scripted symbols of love. Don't get me wrong, chocolates and roses, in my opinion, are really as good as they are supposed to be. However, being told that we need to buy them for our sweeties on a certain day and, of course, the more expensive the better, rubs me the wrong way. M. and I have sometimes observed Valentine's Day in our own way and sometimes not bothered at all. Throughout our relationship, we've always done little, sweet things for each other, and I've tended to love the surprise sweetnesses the most.

Also, it turns out, working with victims and survivors of domestic violence for nearly a decade has made me a wee bit cynical. I now seem to automatically associate typical Valentine's Day romantic pageantry with the make-up phase in a violent relationship, where the abusive partner says he/she is going to change, when everyone says it will never happen again and all is perfect, etc.

But this year it felt different. This year, instead of being annoyed by the whole thing, I couldn't help myself. I made pancakes in the shape of hearts; toast with heart-shaped cinnamon sugar; hearts from paper; silly Valentines for J's class (with her help), and a heart pillow for each girl. I realized what I know their grandparents figured out long ago: Valentine's Day is another opportunity to tell your kids you love them like crazy.

And I do. Valentine's Day or no, I can't stop showering my lovelies with kisses and endearments. It feels like the most natural thing in the world.

But, very, very sadly, when I go to work, I learn that it is not. I so often have found myself listening and witnessing the stories of people who have not felt that their mothers have loved them. At times, the results of these feelings have been far more devastating than other abuses my clients have been through.

As I've watched other, slightly younger clinicians learn this work, I've found that this aspect of the work, mothers not showing their love enough, appropriately enough, strongly enough, has been one of the hardest for them to bear. Witnessing the hurt that people experience when they don't feel loved by their mothers is heartbreaking. However, perhaps strangely, I'm drawn to this part of the work. And, luckily, it doesn't seem to push my buttons that much.

Through thinking about this Valentine's Day, I know more of why: I know my momma loves me endlessly. She tells me so all the time and has for as long as I've been around. I know how to do this loving-your-kids-and-telling-them-so thing without much thought; I've been learning it my whole life. And, I know that I'm passing along the same lessons to my girls.

Also, since becoming a mother, I've found myself bringing more parenting thoughts into the therapy room. I've been teaching some of my clients, who did not have enough loving experiences as kids, how to make things different in their parenting. It seems to be really hard work, at times, but the healing seems to be very profound when it comes.

So, this Valentine's Day, I not only found myself goofily making hearts out of everything, but I also discovered some profound gratitude. I'm grateful for the ways that loves flows so easily in my family, from me and to me. Grateful that I've got these amazing little girls to shower with love all the time. And, grateful that I've found work that lets me share these experiences, in little ways, with others who are hurting in hopes of helping them hurt just a little less.

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