I’m not a huge fan of Valentine’s Day.
I don’t like Valentine’s Day for completely rational reasons, things I know bug other people about the holiday. Sure, I spent many (okay, most) of the Valentine’s Days of years pre-marriage by myself or with girlfriends but I never felt that jilted lover feeling (only once when an ex showed up at a restaurant with a new girlfriend while I was enjoying my own V-day dinner). My grievances with Valentine’s Day are simple.
For one day a year, we pay a premium for something that comes free and easily on any other day.
Everything that signifies love–flowers and candy and other tokens–costs more on Valentine’s Day. Restaurants create a false sense of romance. Everything is pink and red. And more than the stuff and planning is the PRESSURE to make this one, lone night a time for the truest, deepest expression of your love for your partner.
You may read this and say I’m being dramatic but the social script is the social script. There are Valentine’s Day tropes everywhere the second the dust settles after Christmas.
I don’t wait for Valentine’s Day to tell people I love them. Life is too short. I tell them all the time. I tell my husband every night that I love him. I go out of my way to appreciate him (in word and deed). I kiss my girls billions of times a day and make sure they know who loves them. I sign off phone calls with my sister and members of my family with expressions of love. I tell my friends that I love and appreciate them.
And if I haven’t told you lately, readers, I appreciate and love you, too. You inspire me and make me want to write.
But I’m a parent now. And when you’re a parent, well, things you LOATHE are often the things your kids LOVE. It’s tougher to hold strong stances on something that could be commandeered by your kids and made to be the sweetest little thing ever.
It started last year with the school Valentine’s Day cards for my kindergartner. I object only slightly to the card exchange at school on the grounds that at its core, V-day does have Christian roots. Say what you want about its secular prominence, this is still St. Valentine’s Day.
When the class list came home in advance of Valentine’s Day, my daughter was overjoyed! With her father’s help, she selected Barbie cards for the girls and Angry Birds cards for the boys. I cringed a little. Then, she sat dutifully with the list of names and addressed each card with care, sealing them with a heart-shaped sticker.
She didn’t stop with her classmates. Oh no. When she was finished with those, she made out little cards for each of us. And for anyone who crossed the threshold of our house any time after February 1st. She was supremely proud of herself. This year, as she did last year, she has collected cards from her little classmates is thrilled to pieces.
Our little daughter is disappointed she doesn’t have a Valentine’s Day card exchange at preschool so she started making Valentine’s for us at home. She has been working on drawing a heart and when she finished, she said, “Don’t look, mama, I’ll leave it on your pillow.”
I’m pretty much a puddle. They love to write, they channeled their imagination into the sweetest little creations. I’m powerless.
I could stand my ground and refuse this silly, commercial holiday. For now it’s love and hearts and cards and cookies. But one day, the social script will flip on them and they’ll suddenly come to understand that maybe this day has more meaning than it should. I’m hoping that day doesn’t come for a long time.
I might roll my eyes at the heart-filled pink and red explosion at the drugstore, but deep down, my dissension is laced with a little concern that my daughters will confuse my own feelings for Valentine’s Day with my feelings for them. I know a flashy Valentine’s Day does not mean I love them more, but do they?
For now, though, my fears are unfounded. Valentine’s Day is still benign and fun. And the confirmation of that is reassuring.
Like this week, when my youngest came up to me holding a teddy bear and snuggling it. “Look, mama, I’m kissing his head like you kiss us.” She covered the bear’s furry head with kisses. She went on, “And watch, I’m nuzzling him just like you nuzzle us.” And she nuzzled away.
I planned ahead and picked up a few things for them back in December knowing I’d been love-weary in February. This weekend, I might just bake them cupcakes and give them gifts. Just to tickle them.
When the cupcakes are gone, though, and the cards crumpled, I am comforted knowing that the little gestures leave a lasting impression on them.
A nuzzle goes a very, very long way.