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A lesson on true love from a chocolate heart

I want my children to know that, like my own mother, I would die for them, too. My little men have my heart, but the biggest piece is saved for my husband.
I want my children to know that, like my own mother, I would die for them, too. My little men have my heart, but the biggest piece is saved for my husband.

I love Valentine’s Day.

I guess I’m a hopeless romantic at heart, and for me this day is one of my most looked forward to holidays of the year.

I think it all started with the example that my dad, who will have been married to my mother for almost 34 years this July, set for us as we were growing up.

Every year for Valentine’s Day, he would go down to Mrs. Cavanaugh’s in Bountiful and get us all a chocolate Mindy Mint Truffle heart with our names iced across the front in cursive. There was something so incredibly simple yet sweet about imagining my dad calling in and giving the chocolatier our names and spelling. I imagine him thinking about each one of us as he picked up the little hearts and brought them home.

While we each received a small one, my mom always got the biggest heart, but never quite the right kind. Her favorite was peanut butter. My dad always got her a caramel.

Those delectable treats would sit in our fridge for several days afterward as we would slowly nibble away at them. Little by little, our frosted names would break off or get eaten and I would always feel a little let down.

One year my mom got us all blankets and hung them over our chairs at dinner. Mine had hearts all over it, and that blanket got me through several cases of the flu, breakups and bad days at school.

Valentine’s Day was never super extravagant in our home, but I remember my dad and mom always made it a point to make each other a priority that day. My dad loved surprising my mom with gifts: a rose dipped in gold, a locket with their initials engraved on the outside, and always, always flowers.

I never doubted my dad loved my mom. Every evening when he got home from work, he’d give her a kiss. Sometimes we’d delightfully squeal, “Again!” and then pretend to cover our eyes in disgust as he’d wrap his arms around her, dip her and plant one on her again.

One day, I asked my dad if he loved me as much as he loved mom.

He responded kindly but honestly that while he loved us fiercely, he loved mom the most. I was shocked. And absolutely heartbroken. In tears, I ran to ask my mom the same thing, and she reassured me by saying she would die for each of us. That made me feel a little better.

Years later, now that I am a wife and mother myself, I’m beginning to understand why my dad said what he did — and that it wasn’t a bad thing. In fact, his example to us of loving our mother first and foremost gave me comfort and peace, even if it did make me a little jealous sometimes.

I have heard numerous inspirational speakers talk about the importance of making your spouse your No. 1 priority, but have always struggled a little with the idea that my kids might feel bad if they think Daddy is most important.

Until recently.

After my husband’s surgery this month, I have run around like a mad woman trying to get the house prepared for his recovery, putting together hospital bags for him, running out to get bandages, gauze, meds, you name it — even his favorite magazines and TV series ("The Office") to try and make his down time as pain-free as possible — because I love him. Whenever I’d throw something in the cart, I’d look at my boys and say, “This is to help Daddy feel better.”

And I’ve noticed something. My boys, carefully observing me care for their father, have been positively affected. And they have wanted in. They love carrying his breakfast tray up to him. They love making him little notes or carrying his water or massaging his back. They pray for Daddy’s “owie’s” and that he’ll soon be able to “do steamroller and wrestle” with them.

They have never, not once, not even HINTED at the fact that I have been paying Daddy “too much attention.” In fact, if anything, although the changes have been hard and stressful and brought me to tears sometimes, watching me try and be more affectionate to their father has made them more affectionate, too.

Love multiplies in families, especially when spouses take care of one another. It gives children a security and sense of peace to know their mom and dad truly care about each other, and them.

Valentine’s Day is special to me for many reasons now. My third little boy was born on Valentine’s Day two years ago, and I have loved getting to celebrate this day of love with four of the best men I know.

I want my children to know that, like my own mother, I would die for them, too. My little men have my heart, but the biggest piece is saved for my husband.

Thanks for teaching me that, Dad.

Carmen Rasmusen Herbert is a former "American Idol" contestant who writes about entertainment and family for the Deseret News.