I've always loved Valentine's Day. What's more fun than celebrating love? Even when I didn't have someone special, I still looked forward to the prospect or reminisced about past loves.
This year, as the holiday approached, I realized my idea of romance has changed drastically over the years. I have already stressed about bringing back the love to my love life, and I am still trying to figure out what that means.
In school, I was the girl -- annoying to some -- who decorated my boyfriend's locker with gaudy store-bought professions of love. I cut and pasted red and pink construction paper hearts onto my homemade cards. I didn't hesitate to pay a few bucks to send a hand-delivered rose to one of my classmates.
In college, I struggled to find romance among the drunken boys, hanging onto the random gestures of a few good ones ?- staring at the stars from a rooftop, surprising me with a bottle of champagne through my window, driving through an icestorm because he had to see me.
With marriage, romance is harder to come by. When you live with the same person, it's hard to find the urge to slip love notes or kiss in the rain. It becomes more about keeping the other person in our thoughts, taking out the trash so he doesn't have to, cleaning the bathroom so I don't have to.
And now we have babies, which means more to clean and less time to share the love with each other. I find myself kissing my children more than my husband, and I wonder if this is such a good thing. A strong marriage means we're better parents for our kissable kids, so perhaps we need to remember that no matter how tired we are at the end of the day.
My husband recently told me about a study that found married couples who knew they wanted to have children returned to happy couples about 18 months after the baby arrived. The study found it took longer for people who were on the fence about procreating. The results were dim for those who probably didn't want to have kids to begin with.
Do I need to wait another nine months to set the spark? Or should we just ride the wave of babydom and realize that romance evolves as usual?
For Valentine's Day, we could have found a sitter and made a romantic night on the town. But we decided to include the kids and friends for dinner at a nearby restaurant that serves gourmet food but doesn't mind kids. Since the day is about spending time with your loved one, it made sense to include our new loved ones.
But there has to be time for us as a couple. I've talked about date nights, which are great, even when the sitter calls in distress about a teething baby who won't fall asleep. I might even say it's romantic to gulp our red wine and rush home to our kids.
For my husband, romance is pretty basic. If I make him breakfast or even a snack now and again he's happy. He also says it's about saying "yes" more than "no." Food and intimacy. Again, very basic.
But the girl who decorated lockers often longs for a little surprise, and that doesn't have to include diamonds. I want a stab at the romantic comedy finale where they run to each other in a desperate kiss.
I want it, but that doesn't mean I'll get it.
I'm learning a lot about compromise in my fifth year of marriage and first year of motherhood. I don't get as many opportunities to be a fool for love. I don't have the chance to let my hair down and soak in a hot bath with my one true love.
But now I have the option to share my love with more than just my husband. I may kiss my kids -- and let's not forget the dogs -- more than enough each day. As long as I sneak a few to my husband, I think romance lives on in our house.
I will just try to say yes to it more often.