Valentine’s Day. People have lots of feelings about this day. Some love the romance, and others lament the commercialism. Some adore the opportunity to celebrate love in all its forms, some dread the pressure of having to “perform” or withstand heartache. And if you’re like me, you have felt all of these ways over the years. Below is a way that a neighborly stranger showed me how fathers can help their daughters enter into the beauties of this festive occasion for the rest of their lives and leave behind any societal baggage that may be attached to it.
Years before I had children, I attended a conference while I was in graduate school. I met one of the lead speakers and happened to share an elevator ride with him. Valentine’s Day was around the corner, and somehow we got to talking about his plans with his wife and daughter. He shared a brilliant and beautiful idea I now share with you:
“I save February 14 for my wife, and I give my daughter February 13. Someday my little girl will grow up and get a boyfriend. She’ll eventually get married, and I know she’ll want to spend Valentine’s Day with her husband. By celebrating February 13 with her, I still have a special date night with my wife, and she and I will always have the 13th for us, no matter how old we get and who enters the picture.”
I was touched at his thoughtfulness in the present -- he found a way to make both his wife and daughter feel special -- and for the future -- he was modeling to his daughter how a husband is to treat his wife while also reserving a special date that will forever mark their unique father-daughter relationship.
Sadly, my husband won’t be in town for February at all (Navy assignment has him gone for the whole month!), so we’ll have to wait another year before we can try out the February 13th tradition. So I was delighted when, before leaving, he made my daughter a Valentine, inviting her on a daddy-daughter date to get an ice cream cone. In his Valentine, he asked her a question, “Will you be my Valentine? Check yes or no.” She immediately ran to get a marker and checked the “yes” box.
In addition to being adorable (okay, I’m biased) and demonstrating my husband’s love for our child, what I love most about this is the double message he is sending her: you deserve to be treated with dignity, respect, and great care. It is your choice if you want to go out with a man, and he needs to ask you. There will be no need for you to go through the agonizing imposition of initiating a DTR (define the relationship; dating myself to early 2000s?) because he will open himself up to rejection -- making himself vulnerable -- to earn your trust. Strong men have that kind of vulnerability. A strong woman deserves a strong man and vice versa.
However you feel about Valentine’s Day festivities this year, consider how you might help your daughter celebrate the day and all its sweet fun, while also paving the way for her February 13th and 14th festivities in her later years.