By Deacon Travis & Melissa King
Special to The Witness
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). This is the goal for all husbands, and this past Valentine’s Day, I wanted to show my wife that I do love her this much. As a husband, father of four, son, full-time employee of Prudential and permanent deacon, you can imagine that time management is critical for me and planning any activity is always a conscious effort. Like all men, I was faced with the challenge of how can I express my love for my wife in a new way this Valentine’s Day. Most stores, as you know, typically cater to husbands by sticking with the easy standards: roses, chocolates and cards, but this year I wanted to do more and find a way to include our children.
Melissa and I have four children between the ages of 5 and 11, and typically if we want to have a night out as a couple, we are normally having to prepare well in advance and will plan to spend money on the meal, event/movie and child care. Since our children are now old enough to handle simple responsibilities, I pulled the four of them together a couple weeks before Valentine’s Day to share my plan of recreating a restaurant experience with their help at home. Delegating responsibilities, I first asked my oldest daughter, Erin, if she could help organize her siblings to help cut out red, pink and white hearts for table decoration, to find a white shirt and black pants/skirt for each of them, and help make a menu of the meal. I would then take care of planning and cooking the meal and finding tableware. The kids were excited to help and even pulled in the use of my fourth degree Knights of Columbus bow tie to finish off our son John’s attire.
Once the day was finally here, I asked for Melissa to run some errands in order to get her out of the house as we needed to setup the dining room table, change our attire and cook the meal. An hour and a half later, Melissa returned home and was greeted at the door by our children dressed up. They took her coat, and John led her by the hand to her chair in the dining room. While Anna lit the candles, Erin poured us wine and told us what we would be having for dinner from their handmade menus. Before the meal started, Melissa and I were both surprised with a card and letter from the children. The letter read, “Dear Mom & Dad, You have worked so hard to keep this family together. Some days we don’t see that, and we get grumpy and mad, but we love you and everything you do for us. We love you so much and we appreciate and love your personalities, and the memories that we make together, playing games, telling jokes, and just having fun. Thank you for all the awesome trips you took us on, and the thoughtful gifts you gave us. We all love the way that you are so funny, kind and caring to everyone, and we love that you help us grow in our faith. Happy Valentine’s Day, Love Erin, Anna, Claire and John.” Wow! We were floored by this letter that was completely done on their own. It was a great surprise and gift to us. A moment of consolation that our efforts in parenting are actually working.
As the meal progressed, Claire and Anna would bring us each course: salad, beef filet with green beans and twice baked potatoes, followed by a chocolate cheesecake for dessert. Erin and John kept our glasses full of wine and water all evening. Through the meal, Melissa and I were able to experience the joy of our children in loving service to their parents. At times during our conversation we would catch them periodically peeking around the doorframe between our kitchen and dining room to see if we needed more to eat or drink. It was a beautiful night filled with love through service.
We share our Valentine’s Day experience with you for two reasons — first, because our dear friend Sister Carol Hoverman, OSF, saw this on our Facebook page and invited us to share and second, we agreed to that invitation because we want to share how profound it can be to teach your children how to serve and love by simply changing the ordinary things of life, like a meal as a family, into something extraordinary. The cost of the evening was less than going out, and we were able to involve the entire family, avoiding the need for child care. This is what the domestic church looks like lived out at home, as it is in the home where our children first experience God’s love through their parents. So whether it is on the anniversary of your marriage or next Valentine’s Day, think about how you can involve your children and/or other family members to make the evening special. This way your children can learn how to serve and experience the love of God by the way you love your spouse. Happy Valentine’s Day and blessings on your family.
Deacon Travis and Melissa King have four children: Erin, Anna, Claire and John. They serve at St. Columbkille and St. Joseph the Worker Parishes in Dubuque.
The King children are shown shortly before the St. Valentine’s Day dinner they helped plan for their parents. During the meal, they served their parents and also provided a special note for them. (Contributed photos)