Dear Moms: I Stink at Valentine’s Day… But That Works Out Well for You

Last night I posted a link to these cute paper toys (PDF template) on Facebook and said I wanted to make one for each of the kids and have them at their places at breakfast this morning.

That piece of paper is still sitting on the printer.

Have you ever met someone who just rubs you the wrong way and you can’t figure out why? On paper, the two of you should get along great. You have similar likes, similar temperaments. Other people you know and respect absolutely adore her. But you just… grate on one another.

I have that relationship with Valentine’s Day.

I know people who don’t like Christmas, or who want to run and hide on Mother’s Day. Today is my why-do-we-need-to-do-this day. (Thank you XKCD.)

Except for the chocolate. I love the chocolate. But chocolate is not a sometimes food in our house. It is my sacramental meal for oh, pretty much all of Ordinary Time.

I am grateful to have love in my life in many abundant forms. And I appreciate those who have repurposed the day, like my friend Jan, who calls this “agape day” (agape is a Greek word meaning self-giving love). Jan encourages people to practice random acts of kindness today. I’m also a big fan of the Vagina Monologues and its accompanying activism.

Unfortunately, when you have little kids that stuff gets supplanted by the cultural expectation of buying cards, followed by riding kids’ butts to get them filled out in time for the Big Exchange in Which Everyone Gets A Card, followed by the Festival of Furtive Recycling.

Call me a V-Grinch, but I’d rather spend my precious butt-riding time teaching my kid her multiplication tables. (Oh eights, why do you plague us so?)

Last year we waited too long to get Caroline’s cards, and by the time we got to the store, they were completely sold out. So we went home and printed some cards off the internet, which is fine except that
a) we don’t own card stock and
b) we have a black and white printer.

Saddest valentines ever.

Meanwhile the mothers in my neighborhood like to attach candy and homemade crafts to their kids’ cards, or provide thoughtful gifts for the teachers, or have their kids make all of the valentines from scratch. Last year Margaret was even invited to a Valentine’s Day party. I am baffled, and awed by all this having-it-togetherness.

The only reason my kids even have valentines this year is because their great grandmother bought them some when we visited her a couple of weeks ago. Thankfully the girls got them addressed while I was gone last week. But this morning James began to cry at the thought of giving his Chuck the Dump Truck cards away, and did I mention he was expected to sign them as a preschool “literacy activity”?

I am generally a proponent of literacy. Except that James hasn’t decided if we wants to be right or left handed, so it takes him about ten minutes to write his name (times 14), and he needs at least an 8×5 sheet of paper to get all the letters to fit. So I signed his name on some leftover princess and Snoopy cards from the girls’ stash, and will be the mom of the kid who makes all the other kids look like geniuses because he didn’t even try to write his name, not once.

And let’s be perfectly honest—parenting does have that component to it, does it not? The sidewise glance over one’s shoulder. The casual reconnaissance to discern which mutiplication table your kids’ friends are currently mastering. (Again with the lamentable eights!) The sigh of relief that at least you’re doing something right because what kind of mom can’t even sew the dang patches on a Brownie sash?

So I’m working on embracing my ineptness on Valentine’s Day, and seeing it as a ministry. We all need to feel like we’re doing well sometimes, because so much of parenting is like playing whack-a-mole with our bare hands because the mallet walked off a long time ago.

So if my mediocrity on this day allows someone else to say, “I so don’t have my s*** together, but at least I can poke a lollipop through a perforated hole on the Rapunzel card”… then I’m happy. It’s a service I provide to the sisterhood.

18 thoughts on “Dear Moms: I Stink at Valentine’s Day… But That Works Out Well for You

  1. Lee

    Very nice. I’m kind of ambivalent about the whole day, but I especially abhor the lollipop cards – my kid does not need additional candy, thank you. Also, it drives me nuts that you can’t buy cards that don’t have some character on them. What happened to plain red cards with hearts?

    The youth group at church sells Valentine’s Day cards as a fundraiser, and this year, I custom ordered 20 mini cards for Harper to give away to her classmates. Everybody won: I didn’t have to make them, I didn’t have to buy the obnoxious character-sponsored cards, and we supported the youth group’s outreach ministry.

    1. MaryAnn

      I have to give a shout out to James’s preschool. Even though we failed at the “literacy activity” this year, I love the low-key way they do the card exchange. Kids are NOT allowed to attach all that extra stuff to their cards. And last year in Margaret’s class, they actually sent home colored pieces of paper for the kids to sign and decorate, or not. (Naturally, we did not.) The teaching focus of the day is how we share love and care with one another. Perfect.

  2. Shala

    I confess, we have had handmade Valentine’s Day cards two years in a row. Not because I am super mom, but because my daughter loves to craft. Give that girl some pre-cut hearts, a package of googly eyes, a black marker, a roll of glue dots, and a set of to/from stickers and viola! an hour and a half of blessed quiet time while she crafts to her heart’s content. Of course, getting her to address the cards to someone other than her imaginary friends can be a bit of a challenge.

    As for the preschool literacy exercise, I didn’t even try to have Bridget write her name last year. This year, at the wizened old age of 4 and 3/4, she insisted on signing them herself. But I had to write most of the names of her non-imaginary friends. She was tired out.

  3. sherry

    I wonder how many Valentine’s Jesus received. I am thinking zero. Which means using my family’s gift giving equation that is implemented in the Christmas season, no one gets Valentines’ cards/gifts. Joking, but wouldn’t it be nice if it worked.

  4. Stephanie Anthony

    Don’t get me started on this. OK you did. I thought this year might be my first rant free V Day. Guess not.

    My little ones don’t even go to preschool. They go to daycare. Because I have a job outside of my home, away from my kids. Meaning, I love to spend time with my kids and even work on creative projects, but the little note home saying my 20 month old’s class will be exchanging Valentine’s could I please help her prepare them, is NOT appreciated. She’s not even two and has no idea what is going on! Puh-lease!

    There were tears shed 2 nights in a row as my 4 year old tried to write his name on a business card sized Valentine with only half of it designated as the “from” side. He wrote 10 of them. I did 13. No shame.

    The 1st grader – she loves it, and good for her. She also does all the prep work for it completely independently. More power to her. I can get behind that.

    1. MaryAnn

      Amen on all counts.

      I just had a come-to-Jesus with my kids in which I made clear (I hope) that their needling requests for more of their brand-new candy stash would have to stop. Like, immediately.

      Thank God I have session meeting tonight. Gah. What is it about this holiday?

  5. sherry

    BTW, I had a name stamp made for my second child…and it was wonderful. The actual reason was his dyslexia, but man oh man…it made Valentine’s day so much easier.

  6. Esperanza

    My sentiments exactly. We (um, I) filled out the to and from section on some (plain! I found some!) cards. I don’t mind so much the homemade goodies or crafts. It’s the little sack full of Oriental Trading Co junk that I could do without. I disappeared most of it last night (they just go M/W, so their parties were yesterday) but they were asking for it this morning. Oops.

  7. anne

    but you ace april fool’s day as i recall. it’s good not to be an overachiever for every holiday.

  8. Rachel Heslin

    I have to admit that I love seasonal holidays because I bought VDay cards for Hunter when they were 50% off last year (and it was fresh in my mind), because otherwise I’d be digging around on the 13th of February still wondering what happened to the time and do we have any leftovers from the time I bought him a whole bunch on sale because they had temporary tattoos and stickers lying around….

    (Which reminds me: need to go shopping this week for next year….)

    One thing I had been doing regularly is decorating our small guest bath in seasonal colors. The house itself is a lost cause atm, but that one bathroom was doable. Not this year, though. I got the towels changed to blue for the snowflake theme in December but still have the tiny orange ornaments from October dangling from the light fixtures….

  9. Hugs, Kisses and Snot

    My husband and I don’t celebrate V-Day together. We like to joke that everyday is Valentine’s Day at our house. Why do we need a special day to tell your hunny that you love him?!

    I have a 1st grader and a 2 yr old. I must admit that I really made an effort with the 1st grader this year but didn’t send anything to “mother’s day out” w/ my 2 year old. He’s TWO for crying out loud! Why do 2 year olds need to bring valentines to day care?! I didn’t feel one bit of guilt when the other toddler moms sent valentine goody bags and I didn’t.

    P.S. I found your blog via the Fellowship of Prayer Lenton booklet I picked up at church today. Looking forward to the daily Lent devotions.


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