Valentine’s Day stresses me out.
As a parent, I see it through my kids’ eyes. This holiday has always been a high-stakes game of promise and preparation.
Let’s look first at the promise the day holds. I loved Valentine’s Day when I was a kid. Loved the pink hearts and lace doilies. And, of course, the candy: heart-shaped candies printed with “luv u” and Hershey’s kisses wrapped in shiny foil. Most of all, I loved the cards.
I remember the joy of a decorated shoebox stuffed with brightly colored valentines. I also remember the angst—the agony even—when Steve, my fifth-grade crush, gave me a lame Valentine’s card.
The card, I’m sure, wasn’t any different from the cards the poor kid gave to everyone else in Mrs. Stephen’s class, but because he didn’t express his undying love for me, or at least hint at a reciprocal crush, I was heartbroken.
Valentine’s Day has the power to give you wings and to crush your soul, especially when you’re a kid. There’s the ecstasy of getting a cool valentine from the boy you have a crush on. There’s the bitterness of not getting one at all from the girl who used to be your best friend (two days ago).
There are the hours of counting the cards in your construction-papered shoebox, while closely examining each cheesy, mass-produced sentiment. (“KA-BOOM!” What kind of message does a sound effect with a cartoon drawing of Superman convey? Why doesn’t it read, “You make my heart go KA-BOOM”? That would at least make sense.)
Now, I get to watch my children go through the same Valentine’s Day stuff: the preparation, the expectation, the joy and the disappointment. It’s life in a heart-shaped microcosm.
As a parent, the whole friendship negotiation among kids freaks me out. I know it’s going to get worse before it gets better. After all, my kids are still in elementary school. Unfortunately, I vividly remember the emotional turmoil of making and losing friends.
But I must remember that my job now is to be stable and supportive while my kids figure out their own relationships. So, one of my first steps will be to ignore my kids’ Valentine’s cards. I will not be crazy mom, surreptitiously examining my kids’ cards for lameness (or for possible romance). Unless I have to deal with a meltdown. Which we did have last year when my daughter spent all day at school decorating her valentine’s box, but then decided, for some unknown reason, that the result basically sucked. She was convinced that none of her friends would want to put their cards in such a sucky container.
After an attempt to resurrect the problematic valentine box, I spent a long evening helping my girl create another, better box—one that she could feel proud of as her friends stuffed their little cards into its ragged slot. This came after a tense hour choosing the perfect $1.99 ready-made valentine cards after visiting three of the 15 drugstores lining Merrimon Avenue. We examined every multipack featuring Disney characters or cutesy animals saying vaguely erotic stuff like, “You’re the cutest chick around,” and, “Let’s make a splash!”
Yes, the preparation for the day, while it doesn’t rival Christmas, feels out of proportion to the holiday. But never again will I play the artsy mom and make valentines with my kids. Been there, done that. Damn those lace doilies and those teensy, tiny bits of paper that litter the carpet like snowflakes. Damn the construction paper and smelly glue sticks. Most of all, damn the glitter. Once down in the cracks between the hardwood floorboards, even the most powerful vacuum cleaner can’t remove the stuff. The evil glitter will sparkle forever from its embedded spots just out of reach.
So the kids will come home from school on VD and immediately dump the contents of their shoeboxes on the kitchen table. The sorting and analysis will begin. I will let them have one piece of candy, then dump the rest into the candy jar where they can sneak some when I’m not looking.
Then I’ll leave the room and try to relax while eating the Hershey’s kiss I stole from one of their boxes. I’ll savor my kiss and be glad that Valentine’s Day is almost over. For this year, at least.
Anne Fitten Glenn is a freelance writer based in Asheville. She covers a number of topics (including parenting) on her blog, www.EdgyMama.com.