I am not heartless, I swear. But Hallmark holidays really bug me. And Valentine’s Day is the worst of them.
Maybe it’s that I had zero romantic Valentine’s Days until I was 20. The time a boy asked to hug me outside the library after we had done some school research was the highlight up until that point. Sure, my dad always gave my sister and me chocolates and my mom cooked a nice dinner, but February 14th seemed to magnify the fact that I was a nerdy, overweight teen without boyfriends.
Even after I started dating my husband and we married, Valentine’s Day wasn’t our thing. I usually cooked something decent, but we didn’t have a lot of money to throw around for big gestures. My personal favorite Valentine’s Day was in 2009. Our oldest child, Libbie, was about three months old. We decided to invite several of my coworkers (mostly single) over for dinner at our condo. It was delightful.
That Valentine’s Day, though, I also learned about the perils that accompany Hallmark holidays with children.
That year, I was expected to have Valentines from my THREE MONTH OLD to her daycare classmates. Did you hear that? She couldn’t sit up, but apparently she could send cards and gifts to the other babies she hung out with during the day. Slightly horrified, I signed her name on some Scooby-Doo cards from the Dollar Store as a protest.
So fast forward eight years, and I now have four children. Three of them are in school/preschool with various degrees of expected card-giving/shoebox decorating/treat-making. I can’t say my enthusiasm for Valentine’s Day has increased any (and don’t get me started on St. Patrick’s Day, either). But I’ve found my way to muddle through.
If you love crafts and making extravagant Cupid-shaped vegetables with homemade pink Ranch dip, I am glad for you. Really. We all have our own areas in which we excel. If you want to make tons of intricate homemade Valentine’s gifts for your kids and you truly enjoy it, you go Glen Coco. Be you. But DON’T do it just because you feel peer pressure from the other moms who are telling you on the school Facebook group that they are “scouring Pinterest for ideas!!” (Not that I speak from experience there or anything.) (Also I am guessing you don’t have four kids.)
Here are my tips for staying sane if you, like me, aren’t a big fan of Valentine’s Day but have kids who are:
It’s easy to be convinced that “everyone else” is making elaborate Valentines with attached candy, glitter, and holographic unicorns. If it makes you feel badly about yourself, just don’t go there.
Keep It Simple.
If you want to do something homemade, keep it simple and preferably something your kids can do themselves. These are not YOUR Valentines. They are THEIRS. If you want to make beautiful, elaborate Valentines, send them to adults who will actually appreciate them. For your kids, do something easy. When my oldest child was three, she and I made little heart mice that were adorable. One year, I found some free printable ones online and let my kids color and paint them; they loved that.
Focus on Your Family.
While Brutus in your child’s second-grade class will almost definitely not notice which Valentine is from your little Darling, said Darling will definitely notice and remember what you do for him or her. Make Darling feel loved, celebrate what is special about your child, make some fun Valentine’s Day-themed meals if that is your thing. ALDI has heart-shaped marshmallows and cookies right now; throw one in their lunchbox for a treat. Cut their PBJ into a heart. Gift your child a new pair of themed socks or a shirt to wear.