Last week I received two memos about Valentine's Day. One from William's teacher (in his class of 17 students) in which she requested that we send in our valentines--one for each student in the class--on Monday (today) so that they could appreciate them throughout the week. And one from Penny's teacher (in her class of 24 students) in which she announced that February 14th would be a "special day of kindness" in which each student would handwrite a kind thought about each other student in the class to be distributed on that day. Marilee's teacher did not send home a memo. Marilee, however, wants to be like her big brother and sister. She is in a class of 14. You do the math.
For the record, I don't even like Valentine's Day. I have never liked Valentine's Day, except for a three year stint in elementary school during which my boyfriend gave me a heart-shaped box of chocolate every year (yes, we "went out" from fourth grade through sixth grade) and I savored them for the following month, one bite per day. But Peter and I decided a long time ago to boycott the holiday's romantic aspects, and I thought that was the end of the holiday for me. Then I had kids. And every year I forget that Valentine's Day now competes with Halloween as far as candy and expectations and parental pressure is concerned.
So I got these emails and I thought--cheap cards at CVS. Better than nothing. But then I had another thought. I remembered that my mother--she of the house-decorated-for-every-holiday sort--might have some ideas. I wrote her an email explaining my predicament. She immediately responded with:
- a snack bag with a graham cracker, mini hersheys choc, and a marshmallow with "I like you forever and some more"
- snack bag with gum or jelly beans with "I chews You"
- snack bag with goldfish or swedish fish and "I O fish ally want you for my Valentine"
- blow pop with a cape and mask with "You are a SUPER friend"
And then she wrote, "I also have quite a few hearts and doilies from past years. I'll keep thinking."
So we showed up at Mom's house on Saturday morning and got to work. Two hours later, Penny, William and Marilee had completed their valentines. The kids thought it was fabulous. I was exhausted.
So here's the takeaway. Valentine's Day is an unnecessary holiday largely created (or at least amplified and perpetuated) by candy and card and flower companies. Some people--like my mother and my children and my children's teachers--love it. For them, it's fun and special and sweet and good. Other people--like me--find it exhausting and overwhelming and wasteful. And that's okay.
It's okay that I don't like Valentine's Day. It's okay that I'm not a Martha Stewart, pinterest-loving, crafty creative decorating mom. But it's also okay that I have to come up with dozens of ways for my kids to express their affection for their friends and teachers. That I have to overcome my own inadequacies and ask for help and reach out.
On a very small level, this is the best stuff of life together. Giving and receiving. Asking for help. Recognizing that I can't be good at everything. Feeling humbled and grateful.
Who knew that Valentine's Day would be an occasion to learn a little bit more about love?