The following is an excerpt from The Year and Our Children by Mary Reed Newland who explains to us how we can use St. Valentine’s Day to get to the deeper meaning of love.
Most fun of all is making valentines at home. The materials cost little or nothing if you keep a supply of construction papers, pastes, and other such items on hand, and the work provides many opportunities for mothers and children to discuss the differences between friendship and love and the lamentable forcing of the boyfriend issue in the first grade.
It is not always the children who are at fault. Abetted by the teasing of grown-ups, children little more than babes make the unfortunate conclusion that boy must meet girl and be boyfriend and girlfriend at six years of age; they never do learn that it is possible to be that rare and wonderful creature: a friend who happens to be a boy.
The same parents who wring their hands over high-school children determined to go steady are the ones who encourage puppy love in the kindergarten. We ignore the fact that childhood crushes in the young are merely an awkward way of trying to be special friends, we do them no favors.
Of course children get crushes, and of course girls become boy-conscious, with vice becoming versa; but they need not be shoved and pushed so hard.
One of the most excruciating trials of youngsters who believe themselves to be in love these days is restraining their impulses of affection.
Very few children deliberately set out in their first encounters with crushes to commit any sins of impurity.
In their innocence of experience, they do not know exactly how such sins can be, or if they know the theory, they do not know the fact.
It is the task of Christian parents to convince them that these impulses must be held in check.
Held in check they are good, they are manifestations of sincere and genuine affection, but they can so easily be transformed into something that is not good.
The reason it has become such a delicate and difficult task (although I suppose it always was a worry for parents) is not because this restraint is impossible but because so few today seem to practice it.
The example of promiscuous contemporaries is a powerful thing.
It rarely helps to start lecturing on the subject once children reach high school; it does not help at all to pooh-pooh love or schoolgirl crushes or the boyfriend business once it begins for a son or daughter growing up.
But such occasions as St. Valentine’s Day (with innumerable opportunities all year round, of course) open this subject for discussion in a pleasant way.
We may use the evenings spent making valentines to have our own open forum on the subject of love and the showing of love and how it is that people fall in love, and how it is all related to God’s love.
Such Christian concepts as respect for girls and women, respect for our bodies and the bodies of others, the propriety and impropriety of kissing – whom and when – right judgment about the movies, their ads and their love-making, many other things can be formed at a very early age.
We must use all our talent and love and conviction to form them in our children.
We are foolish if we think that our children, because they are nice children, are automatically safe.
In the movie ads and posters they see, the newsstand magazines and comics, the covers of the paperbacks, slicks, and in a hundred ways promiscuity is preached to them – and it is not preached to what is nice in them but to the deplorable weakness left in human nature by the inheritance of Original Sin.
We can work to form in them the conviction that making love is something positive and beautiful that belongs with marriage, and this concept can exist even for the small ones without, as we might fear, any undertones of s-e-x.
Demonstrations of affection they can automatically connect with mommies and daddies, as well as with relatives and friends.
When there are things to denounce, such as this week’s ad showing a movie siren and lover wrestling on the beach, we can make our denunciations more convincing if we avoid panic but rather express regret that some people persist in distorting out of its sacramental context what should be the beauty of human love.
There are many facets of this subject for parents to ponder.
Each can adapt best the teaching for his children, but let us emphasize while they are still little that it is friendship that holds the joys of companionship for them.
I suppose the free use of the word boyfriend has made it almost a synonym for friend, but not quite.
It may be a losing battle, but we continue to explain the difference.
“Your friend, dear – your friend who is a girl. Little boys in second grade have friends, not girlfriends.
Yes, I know – they tease and say you have a girlfriend, and that is too bad, because it is necessary that you love everyone with much more love than the word girlfriend intends. You must try to love them as our Lord loves them, and you must try to see our Lord in them.
If you like someone especially well, better than others, that is all right.
Then they are among your special friends. Be glad and be careful of your friendship. Friendship is a beautiful, holy thing if you keep it that way.”
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