What My Children Taught Me on Valentine's Day

Last year, my children threw a Valentine's Day party for their friends. The idea behind the party was simple: ditch the overpriced chocolates and romantic exclusiveness of Valentine's Day to celebrate a love that’s bigger. A love that can provide a lifesaving heart surgery for a child in a war zone.

It was a choice between chocolate hearts or giving the gift of a real, beating heart.  

I want to teach my children more than to wear clean socks and occasionally brush their teeth. I want them to discover that this world is their world, too. They may be small, but they have the power to make this world better for someone else—one  “I’ll help you” or “I’m sorry” at a time.

So the decision was made. They were going to throw a #HeartMender party with Preemptive Love Coalition and try to raise enough money to give a child a mended heart—one that lets them jump up and down with their friends and play soccer until they are out of breath, just like my kids have.

Out came the crayons. The party planning began.

My kids decided to invite their friends from school and from the neighborhood. (And yes, they allowed me to invite some of my friends too!)

As they made the guest list and scrawled out invitations, it dawned on them that if all their friends came and each brought a donation, maybe—just maybe—this kindergarten and first grade gaggle could provide enough for a whole heart surgery?  My two kids’ piggy banks weren’t going to cut it, no matter how hard they shook them. But together with their friends. they could do something amazing.  And they did.

On a quiet Sunday afternoon, 15 elementary school children descended on our house to inhale a feast of sugar, to glitter and glue Valentine’s Day cards for heart surgery patients.

I’ll never forget making cards alongside little faces who were asking me, “Who are these kids who need heart surgery?”

“Why don’t they just go to the hospital like here?”

No one shied away from looking at pictures of really sick kids waiting for heart surgery. They asked uncomfortable questions about war, and why the hospitals “over there” couldn’t take care of kids. They asked why so many kids in Iraq had heart defects. They never lowered their gaze when the broken parts of our world showed themselves.  

I started to realize just how brave these kids were. They did something I’ve never done before. They didn’t hesitate. They simply grabbed their friends and said, “We’re doing this because their kids need to be able to run and jump, just like we do.”

On Valentine’s Day, all our kids got a chance to remake the world into something better than it was the day before.  They grabbed onto the truth that though they are small, they were born to make the broken parts of this world better. And what they can’t do alone, they can accomplish together.

That’s what Valentine's Day taught my children and me: that this is their world, and they have the power to remake it.

After the door closed behind the last guest, and after the sugar fumes had settled a bit, I was overwhelmed by the love of each person who had filled my home that day. Each one brought themselves there to remake an Iraqi child’s world.

It takes a tribe to teach our children who they really are—that this really is their world to love, their world to mend.

Join me in celebrating a bigger, heart-mending love this Valentine's Day!

About Diana Oestreich

Former Iraq War combat medic who lives to wage peace, sexual assault nurse, mom/adventure guide to two rambunctious sons, and key relationships officer for Preemptive Love Coalition.


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What Valentine's Day Taught Me About My Children
What My Children Taught Me on Valentine's Day
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