My dad is a farmer. Busy, hard working, stoic. You know the type.
He’s from Western North Dakota and from a different generation.
Put all those together and you can probably surmise that oodles of affection, hugs and smooches, and saying, “I love you” were not the norm in our house.
Not that my siblings and I didn’t feel loved; we felt it immensely, we were just shown love in different ways.
But each Valentine’s Day, things were different. He was different.
On the morning of Valentine’s Day, he would make a special trip 30 miles all the way into town to pick out gifts for each of us four kids and my mom. This is something that he ordinarily never did, because gas was expensive and there were always things to do on the farm.
The gifts were all him, no help from my mom. He really made an effort: taking the time to think about each of us kids individually and what we would like.
He would come home and bestow those little gifts, a bracelet, stuffed animal, or flowers, on each of us in his stoic dad way and we felt so loved.
I’m sure it was a bit uncomfortable for him. He wasn’t a man fluent in showing affection (that is until he had grandbabies, funny how that changes a man). But I knew, even then as a little girl, that this gift was special.
It wasn’t just a trinket from my dad. It was him stepping out of his comfort zone, loving us so much that he was willing to make an effort to show us his love in a way he didn’t normally do: that was not at all natural for him.
I think Valentine’s Day gave him permission to take off that hard shell and reveal the softness underneath.
Let Dad Take the Lead
So now, as a mom, I don’t buy the gifts for my kids on Valentine’s Day. I let my husband take the lead. The twinkle I see in their eyes when their dad hands them a specially chosen gift or surprises me with flowers is so rewarding. And I love to see their bond deepen.
And yes, Valentine’s Day has a reputation for putting a little extra pressure on the man…with flowers, candies, or planning a romantic getaway. And yes, it has turned into a “corporate holiday” in some regards.
But really, who cares. Ultimately it is a chance for them to show their love in ways they normally wouldn’t. To help them feel safe and secure in that love.
So, I say to Dads out there, lean in.
Lean in to this day.
Let yourself be less of the strong, stoic provider and a little more mush.
Because your kids will remember this as the special day when Dad took a little extra time to show them his love. And it will be something that they will never forget.