If you are a parent with children at home, do you remember?
Do you remember getting flowers delivered to your workplace? Do you remember trying to select just the right restaurant for your special night out? Do you remember the boxes of candy, dozens of roses and personal Valentines your spouse gave you?
For the last 16 years, Valentine’s Day has meant finding gifts for not only my husband, but my children, as well. Not wanting to make this minor holiday into a second Christmas, I try to keep the gifts small and inexpensive. For several weeks prior, I pick up small gifts here and there as I go about my grocery shopping and errands. For my three daughters and husband, these consist of things like boxes of chocolate, a pretty pink candle, a shiny red lip gloss or a pack of heart-themed stickers. Upon returning from these shopping excursions, I quickly hide these gifts, burying them in the garage shelves among other goods, so they won’t be discovered. The trouble always comes when I don’t remember what I’ve bought, then buy more. On Valentine’s Eve, finding these items and then trying to even out the kids’ piles is always a challenge.
With a third child entering the elementary school, I was reminded last week that Valentine’s Day becomes a school project for this age group. My kindergartener was assigned the project of covering a box of some kind in red paper to create her very own Valentine mail box. She was also asked to procure Valentine cards, write each of her classmates’ names on 20 little envelopes, and sign each Valentine card to go inside. It’s good practice in penmanship, spelling and letter recognition we were told, and another thing to add to my Valentine’s To-Do List.
In addition, a large heart cut-out of cardstock came home in her backpack. It was our monthly “family project.” We were to decorate the heart in any creative way our kindergartener chose. With two older girls who haven’t been in elementary school for many years, I found we were low on supplies. The foam heart sticker collection was down to just a few. There were heart and cherub-shaped stampers, but the ink pad was dried up. I added these to my weekly shopping list but Sarah went ahead without them. In her kindergarten scrawl, she began writing the names of each of her family members on the heart in magic marker. She could spell “Mom” and “Dad” and her dog’s name, “Pepper,” then she asked for help spelling her big sisters’ names. I asked why she chose to write names on it and she reminded me that the theme of the project was “Love.”
Whereas, the greatest challenge in celebrating Valentine’s Day with just my husband used to be picking a restaurant, now there is the babysitter to secure. It seems that most teenagers I know have their own dates that night. There were years when my older daughters were available, but now, with both in high school and dating, that well has dried up. I had my work cut out for me.
As many dutiful parents out there do, I volunteer my services at the children’s annual Valentine’s party. Some choose to do this at school as the classroom parent, others just step in when called. I choose to help out at the Waverly Community House in their Valentine’s Workshop. It is open to the community with games, arts and crafts, music, face painting and Valentine-themed baked goods and snacks. The snow day we had last week was the perfect opportunity to prep my donation to the party. Sarah and I baked heart-shaped cookies and decorated boxed of raisins to look like Valentines.
Do I long for the old days when this holiday was all about me and my Valentine? Not this mom. After all, what did we talk about over candlelight all those Valentines ago? We dreamed of being parents. While indulging ourselves with wine and chocolate was fun, we longed to be blessed with these little responsibilities. There will be time for all of that again later.
For now, pass the scissors, magic markers and glue. Get out the flour, butter and sugar. Pull up the babysitter phone list. Let’s meander down a store aisle full of Valentines featuring Disney characters, puppies, kittens and SpongeBob. Then I’ll go home and try to remember where I hid the gifts. It’s all good. In fact, since it’s the holiday that celebrates love, it’s the perfect day to spread it and soak it in. You can never have too much love.
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