Friday, February 02, 2007

For Valentines: The Gift of Time

A few years ago around this time of the month, I learned a little about serendipity. Serendipity, by definition, is the act of discovering something wonderful quite by accident. Some might call it luck.

Valentine’s was approaching and I was in a quandary over what to get my kids. With the post-holiday trip to the dentist fresh in my memory, sweets were definitely out. And financial realities ruled out almost everything else. Fortunately, I remembered having some leftover red card stock. What could be better than handmade Valentines?

Using a pattern, I traced a large red heart on each sheet of 8 ½ x 11 inch paper. Not wanting to waste the scraps remaining, I made a small pattern and cut out two additional hearts per sheet of paper. But what to do with them?

Not until just before handing them to the kids did I come up with an idea. Magic hearts -- that’s what I’d call them.

Presenting them to my children, I explained, "These smaller hearts are magic. Sure, they may look like ordinary paper, but they’re not. Each one has special powers that affect only me. Say, for instance, that you want me to play a game, but I’m doing the dishes. All you have to do is give me the magic heart and say, ‘Mom, I’d like you to play a game with me.’And just like magic, I have to do it."

My daughter’s jaw dropped and my son’s eyes got big. Something that could get Mom to drop everything and play with us? Yes, the hearts really must be magic.

We discussed that since they each got only two hearts, it would be important not to waste them. Using one to get Mom to do something they could do themselves – that would be wasteful. But turning one in to get Mom to read their favorite book instead of putting on her make-up – very wise indeed.

At the last minute I added another clause. "Once you use a magic heart," I told them, "if I find you doing something extra nice – like picking up your toys without being asked – I can give you your magic heart back to use again." They giggled with excitement.

A week or so later, my son wanted me to play Legos with him. I gave him my typical response, "Not right now, I’m cleaning up the breakfast mess." But instead of protesting, he said nothing. Just walked away.

Within a minute he returned, holding a magic heart. "Mom," he said, "I’m using a magic heart. Now you have to play Legos with me." Although I still didn’t want to, I couldn’t say no. And after helping him build a space ship, I began to wonder if maybe playing Legos might be more important than wiping counters and loading the dishwasher after all.

I impulsively gave my children magic hearts for Valentine’s Day, never guessing at the outcome. Not only did the hearts’ magic give my kids a sense of power and control, but they also showed a task-oriented mother that work could wait. Time, on the other hand, is precious and fleeting.

Chocolates, cards and candy hearts are nice, but magic hearts taught me that nothing says, "I love you" like the gift of time.

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