Happy Valentine’s Day!

Kyle-Valentines-Day-2014_by-Denton-Morris-450-webBy Jae-Ha Kim
jaehakim.com
February 14, 2014

Before we go out to celebrate Valentine’s Day tonight as a family, I will be at my son’s kindergarten class, helping out at their party.

I’m one of the Room Moms. Don’t be jealous. The title isn’t as fancy as I make it sound. 😉

All kidding aside, I love it. It’s a fun opportunity to see Kyle interact with his peers, which is one reason I enjoy volunteering at his school.

The other day, my mother caught me on the phone as I was rushing off to school. I was on my way to work with children on their reading and writing skills. On this particular morning, I was irritated. I had a lot of work to get done and was worried that taking 2-1/2 hours out of my day would make it difficult for me to meet my deadlines. Volunteering felt like a chore.

As I complained to my mother, she quietly said, “It sounds nice to me. You’re lucky to be able to spend time with Kyle and the kids. It’s really a gift.”

When I was a few months older than Kyle is now, my mother entered the workforce out of necessity, not choice. Besides taking care of us, my parents also supported my grandfather and various extended family members. My grandpa came and lived with us for a while and helped take care of us while my parents worked.

When he returned to Korea, my brother and sister took me to and from school.

By the time I was 8 or 9, they were in high school, and I became a latchkey kid.

To this day, my mother has regrets that she wasn’t there when I came home from school; that she couldn’t attend the assemblies when I received my honor rolls and perfect attendance awards; that she couldn’t watch the school plays I had written. At the time, my mom was making $2 an hour. Our piano lessons cost $6 for 30 minutes. There wasn’t any wiggle room to take a day off from work.

Of course it would’ve been nice if my parents could’ve attended all those things, but I understood. And honestly? I was fine.

But no matter how often I tell her that, she still has regrets. She tells me often about the day she got off work early. When she arrived home, she found me sitting alone in the living room eating a bag of potato chips. She remembers a small child who had no one to make her lunch. But what had actually happened was that I didn’t want to eat the nutritious meal she had left for me and was enjoying my chance to eat all the potato chips I could without having to share with my brother or sister.

My parents weren’t always able to be there for me in the way that they wished they could have. But because of the sacrifices they made for me, I have plenty of options — the most important of all being that I am able to be there for my son. And I know that this makes my mother very happy.

Over the weekend, my son made a Valentine’s Day card in Korean School:

Sarang cropped

It says, “Mommy, I love you!”

This “holiday” is sold as a day of romance, where you buy each other romantic gifts. And, if you’re alone, well, too bad for you. But Valentine’s Day really should be a day about love, not just romance.

So after the school party ends today, Kyle and I will take my mother out for a Valentine’s Day lunch.

Last night, I saw Kyle take $5 from his piggy bank and carefully tuck the bills away into his backpack. I asked him what he was doing.

“Daddy’s going to pay for our dinner tomorrow,” he said. “I want to treat Nini to lunch for Valentine’s Day!” Looking a little worried, he asked, “Is this enough money to pay for everyone?”

I assured him that it was more than enough. And stifled a tear or two.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone. I hope you have a day filled with love.

And chocolate. Always, chocolate.

© 2014 JAE-HA KIM | All Rights Reserved 

Comments (21)

  1. Natasha says:

    Awe! Enjoy your day. I was a room mom quite a bit. Now one of those kids that were in the room.. became my FB friend and just got married. Good memories. ( She brought up she remembered me being a room mom!) Thx! Loved the pic and blog!

  2. HN says:

    Ohmygosh the cutest valentine!!!

  3. Henna says:

    W O W. That little one is a treasure. Goodness, this whole piece touched me deeply. Happy Valentines Day!

  4. Julie P says:

    love it…Happy Valentines Day!

  5. Tom N says:

    Thank-you for sharing your insight and perspective on Valentine’s Day. Your parents are a treasure. They invested wisely and got a great return on that investment.

  6. Paula R says:

    Too right. Difficult as it was to nurse my parents, not having anyone nearby who has that kind of love for me and not being able to care for them has left quite an emotional gap that I have yet to fill. I really treasured a letter from my nephew which arrived yesterday, the more so for it’s being unexpected.

  7. Anna says:

    I had to work the whole time my older son was going to school. I hope to be able to create those type of memories now that I have the opportunity to stay at home with my younger son. Thank you for sharing!

  8. Patricia says:

    Thanks for sharing such a nice story from your heart. Enjoy today!

  9. Marge M. says:

    Thanks, Jae! Though I’ve spent most Valentine’s Days as a single person, I love the red, the pink, the cupids & arrows (note that Fb wanted to change this to “cuspids”), and the idea of a day dedicated to love in all forms. To shoeboxes turned into mailboxes! To doilies and construction paper and conversation hearts! And to chocolate 🙂

  10. Mee K-C says:

    Brought a tear to my eye as it took me back to my latchkey days. I too was totally fine with it. I understood my parent had to work. And it’s probably why I was fiercely intent on being a stay home mom because I didn’t want to miss anything when it came to my three kids. Thanks for this wonderful article. It hit home and them some.

    • Jae-Ha Kim says:

      I’m sure your parents are like mine. They’d rather have been the ones to make sacrifices so that we don’t have to. It is truly remarkable to me how people immigrate to a country that is so foreign from what they know. With all the privileges that I have, I’d still be wary about moving to a non -English speaking country…

  11. 이별 says:

    This is so beautiful. Thank you for such a wonderful post.

    • Jae-Ha Kim says:

      Thank you 이별. I started out writing a more standard Valentine’s Day post, and it kind of morphed into my memories… and I’m kind of glad it did. I appreciate your taking the time to comment!

  12. Jacqueline Goldstein says:

    So good to have this reminder of what a privilege it is to spend time with our kids.

  13. Jae-Ha Kim says:

    Thank you so much, Jacqueline. And you are so right–it is a privilege.

  14. David Hirota says:

    This is just great period. (I know, very late). Hope you had a nice holiday weekend.

  15. Kim Jaehwa says:

    This is beautiful. Thank you.

  16. Crystal says:

    Thanks for this beautiful reminder about love!

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