Given the fact that it's Valentine's Day, I started thinking about how the word "love" has morphed from being a romantic superlative to describing all things that we crave and adore. Children especially use "love" to describe all things that give them joy.
"I love animals more than anything, except for chocolate," my little one says as we talk about our trip to Disney's Animal Kingdom. And it's true, she does love animals, all animals. She doesn't just reserve her love for traditional house pets - dogs , cats, fish. She also loves goats, chickens, pigs, anything that inhabits the animal world receives her love and attention. She doesn't even want anyone to step on a bug, or trap a mouse.
But her love affair with chocolate - now, nothing can compare to that. Like an addict, she will seek it out in every possible situation and try to wear me down to convince me that it's a "special occasion," and she deserves chocolate. She tells me that it's perfectly OK to eat chocolate at 10 in the morning. She promises to have just a little. Of course a little always turns into a few more pieces, and then boom, she's got that chocolate high.
From movie stars to sports teams to great restaurants, adults also profess their love for things that bring them joy. It's the American way. We love things, and we want everyone to know about it.
Upon reflection though, I don't think it devalues the word. I think we all know the difference between someone saying: "I loved that movie," and "I love you." At the end of the day, it's the second one that really counts.
So, on this Valentine's Day, you may love your cat, your latte, and your iPod, but tell the people in your life that you love them. You may even get a little chocolate in return.
Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including two on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.