When my son was barely three, the preschool class rep asked me to help with the Valentine’s Day party. I’m always game for a party, so of course I agreed to help. I was asked to bring cherry-flavored sugar-free Kool-Aid. I didn’t even give that stuff to my child, but thought, okay, I’ll go along.
When I arrived, I suddenly felt uneasy. It slowly dawned on me that we were conspiring to give a class of three-year-olds a major sugar high while insisting they decorate cardboard hearts all in the name of love. Sounds harmless—but as I watched the kids scarf down brownies and cupcakes and drink bright red Kool-Aid, I thought to myself, something is wrong with this picture. Some of the parents were putting Elmo cards, that they clearly made, with bags of sweets or with a cookie attached into all the children’s boxes. Again, I’m not a sweet Natzi, but really, is love about food and sugar? And can a three-year-old possibly understand what the holiday is about?
Of course not. We as parents are getting suckered into all the marketing surrounding holidays. You can’t walk into a drug store in late January without seeing red paper hearts strewn from the ceiling above isles of romantic cards, as well as packs of Spider-Man or Dora cards that kids can hand out to their friends at school. I remember doing this in elementary school and thinking back makes me want to hug my shy little seven-year-old self. I was so introverted and dreaded this day—even at seven. Watching all the cool girls give their best friends Valentines—or worse—the cute boy giving girls Valentines and me not getting one was heart wrenching. Even at that tender age. If you only get a Valentine from the teacher, you know you’re having a bad year.
So perhaps this day of love and romance can be a bit much for young children? Certainly at three or younger a child can’t possibly understand or care. So why, as parents do we bother? Is it to impress the other parents? Do we feel obligated by societal pressure? And when our kids enter elementary years, must we buy a big pack and give a card to everyone in the class so no one is left out? Just what is proper Valentine’s Day etiquette for first graders?
My six-year-old could care less about the holiday this year, but we are in London now where there just aren’t Hallmark-like drug stores on every corner. His teacher hasn’t even mentioned the V word. There isn’t even one heart dangling from the ceiling of his classroom. I doubt we’ll be pouring Kool-Aid or swapping sweets either. I wonder if he’ll be less of a romantic later in life for it?
This morning I asked my son if he knew what Valentine’s Day was. He shrugged and said no. He hadn’t a clue. Well, he likely isn’t alone. But at six, he has many years to figure it out. If we still lived in the States, however, where cards are dished out in class, I think I’d advise him to give as many cards as he’s able to write a personal greetings and sign his name to. No mommy-written or mommy-created cards allowed.
Perhaps I’m a Valentine grinch, but isn’t this holiday supposed to be for us parents? Our love helped create these wonderful children, there’s no denying that. But seriously, being a parent can drain every ounce of romance from your veins. We are desperate to reconnect with our spouses and won’t our children benefit more from parents who can do that? So I say, instead of buying cards and attaching candy to them for sixteen kids under the age of six, why not go out and buy yourself something sexy? Rent your favorite movie that you and your partner watched back when you were dating, or dust off the book of poetry you used to read in college. Plan a romantic dinner and send junior to mom’s or a friend’s and focus on what made you want to create junior in the first place. Let your little ones fend for themselves. Valentine’s Day isn’t about children—only Hallmark wants you to believe that.
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