Dear Husband and I do not celebrate Valentine’s Day. This makes me ridiculously happy. I promise you it is not me pretending that I don’t care about it. I am not anti-Valentine’s Day, but in my adult view, I really hate that so much rides on it for some couples and single women (or single anyone). Somehow, Hallmark made us believe that A) it’s all about romance and B) it’s all about the woman in the romance. Because heaven forbid that the male-dominant person in the relationship not make reservations at the best restaurant, bring flowers and candy, buy jewelry or other valuable presents, or say I Love You enough.
Some might say they don’t like Valentine’s Day because they don’t need a day to tell their romantic partners that they love them. They do (and should do) this everyday. I hear this a lot – and while they are correct, we could also say we don’t need an Independence Day to celebrate our freedoms or a Thanksgiving to remember all that we are thankful for. I realize those holidays and other represent specific events, but they are still symbolic, and I don’t have a problem with Valentine’s Day acting as a reminder of love in general.
This is where I remember how I used to feel about Valentine’s Day – that is all about love in general. The best reminders come from my kids. My friend Jen revealed today that she never knew Valentine’s Day to be anything more than a kids “Easter Basket”-type day (bless her heart). Sadly, she is so wrong, and yet entirely RIGHT. My kids LOVE Valentine’s Day. Sure, part of it is the fact that it’s a holiday and sure to bring something different and fun to school, but they always got a kick out of filling out the valentines and the joy that the holiday implies.
At this point my 12-year old feels quite relieved about not having to do the valentine thing anymore, and even though some of that is his age, I fear that some of it comes from me and his dad and our lazy disinterest in the whole thing. But once upon a time, I remember slipping into his bedroom one night when he was in kindergarten to find him writing out his own made up valentines, using cut out sheets of notebook paper (he’s not as artsy craftsy as one of his other brothers). They were addressed to kids in his class and each said, “I love you.” It still brings tears to my eyes at the pure sweet nature behind them. In my fear that he would be teased mercilessly by one or two kids for the “I love you” phrase, I convinced him to wait, and we’d buy valentines instead. Maybe I should have let it go, but that boy’s heart is so big, I can’t bear it when it gets crushed.
I knew that my 9-year old chose to make his own valentines this year (no surprise – completely his way), but I just found out last night that he’d been personalizing them – I mean really personalizing them. At conferences, we found out from his teacher that he’s been asking all of the kids about their interests. My husband told me that one kid is getting a Pokemon card because my son found out that this is something he really likes. My proud heart grows.
My 5-year old attends a pre-school where holidays are not directly celebrated. They are not banned, just down-played. The art table encourages writing letters and making valentines, but it isn’t specifically designated as such. My son came home with a valentine for his brothers, he was excited that the glitter glue was finally dry. I don’t have much more of a Valentine’s Day-specific story for him except that he exemplifies the opposite of those who dislike the “one” day love idea. My 5-year old will express love at any time. “I just love Toby,” he’ll say at home or in class of one of his best friends. “I just really loved Kathy,” he’ll say of the student teacher he still remembers from last year.
When I student taught, one of my placements was a 7th grade Language Arts class. It was a small group, and because of that I was able to have some success with asking each of their parents to write a letter to them. I presented these letters to them towards the end of class. I wish I had done this again because I could tell how much they loved these letters. I supposed it isn’t practical, and too many students wouldn’t get a letter, but what I take away from that experience is that maybe I should just do this every year for my own kids. Someone please remind me of this in 360 days.
At this point in my life, my kids remind me of what Valentine’s Day always used to mean to me: just love. Not “crap I don’t have a boyfriend/girlfriend” love. Not “my husband better bring me a dozen roses” love. Just the open and free nature of love.
And maybe candy.
John Denver’s version calls this song, “For Baby, (For Bobby)”, and I do love his version. But I also really love Peter, Paul, and Mary’s version which keeps it child-centered: