Sunday, February 10, 2013

A Valentine’s Day Message

All of a sudden it’s February, and with February come thoughts of Valentine’s Day, the one day of the year totally devoted to “love.” What a broad term that is! The Greeks identified many, many different types of love – from the love we feel for our soul mates, to the love we feel for our friends, to the love we feel for a beautiful sunset or favorite poem. But when it comes to love, we feel sure you’ll agree that there’s no deeper or more important emotion than the love we feel for our children. One of my favorite quotations from writer Elizabeth Stone makes this point exquisitely. To have children, she says, is “to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”

We know from our own experiences that parenting children is both the most rewarding and most challenging job you will ever face. More than any other life-change, the sudden responsibility of having to steer a helpless infant through the murky waters and ever-shifting currents of modern life can seem overwhelming. And with good reason. The world is a vastly different place from the one we knew as children ourselves. As we struggle to raise our children while also dealing with unimaginable technologies, economic and political uncertainty, changing moral attitudes, and growing cultural diversity, it’s only natural to make mistakes along the way.

Fortunately, children don’t expect or need perfection from us. Children, even during the infant and toddler years, are flexible creatures with a capacity to forgive – just as long as the scale, overall, is very clearly weighted in a positive direction. It’s as though Mother Nature has realized that not the richest parent, not the most educated parent, not the most well-meaning parent in the world, can be expected to do a perfect job. What children do expect from us is unwavering love and devotion – through both the good and the hard times, through both the terrible two’s and the terrible teens! And that’s what we need to remember this Valentine season.

As you pause to reflect on the love you feel for your own children, we know you will appreciate the profound wisdom contained in these words from Lloyd deMause with which I close:

“The evolution of culture is ultimately determined by the amount of love, understanding and freedom experienced by its children... Every abandonment, every betrayal, every hateful act towards children returns tenfold a few decades later upon the historical stage, while every empathic act that helps a child become what he or she wants to become, every expression of love toward children heals society and moves it in unexpected, wondrous new directions.”

Happy Valentine’s Day—and Happy Signing!


Linda Acredolo, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus, UC Davis
Co-Founder, The Baby Signs® Program
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