Having Kids Forces Me To Pretend To Care About Valentine’s Day

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i hate valentine's dayWhen I was 17 years old, my boyfriend bought me a Valentine’s Day present. It was a white teddy bear clutching a red silk pillow trimmed with lace. “I Love You” was written across the pillow and, if I’m not mistaken, there were helium balloons involved, too. Needless to say, I was mortified. I mean, lovely thought and all, but please – that thing was hideous! And it serves as a gentle reminder as to why exactly I hate Valentine’s Day.

Don’t get me wrong: I didn’t mind the holiday growing up. My dad would buy me chocolates and, at school, we’d exchange little cut-out V-Day cards with phrases like “You’re Special!” and “Be Mine!” written across the front. But by the time I reached my teens, I realized Valentine’s Day was nothing more than a Hallmark Holiday. Which is cheesy, if you ask me. Never mind that I had a high-school sweetheart – I was over it.

Fortunately, my husband has always felt the same way. In fact, we’d often forget it was Valentine’s Day altogether ’til we’d head out for dinner and wonder why all the restaurants were so packed. No gifts were exchanged, not even a card. And I was fine with it. Beyond. Our wedding anniversary, on the other hand, that has always been something to celebrate. Because it’s our day, and it actually has meaning to us. It’s not some random holiday made up by a greeting card company (just saying).

Now we have kids and, well, that’s messed everything up. I am suddenly forced to pretend to care about Valentine’s Day, and it drives me nuts. Last February 14, for instance, my then 5-year-old came home from school in tears. “Everybody at school had Valentine’s Day treats at lunch and I didn’t,” he told me. He was devastated! It hadn’t even occurred to me to fake it with my little guy, and I felt like shit. (Mother of the year!)

I covered up by telling him that’s because I had something even more special planned – a surprise. I then threw on my boots and sprinted  to my local drugstore to grab whatever they still had left in heart-shaped chocolates, along with a giant SpongeBob SquarePants Valentine’s Day card. I also ran next door to the overpriced, gourmet cupcake shop and bought a half-dozen pink and red concoctions. “Surprise!” I screamed upon my return home. He totally fell for it.

This year I’ll be sure to buy some chocolates and once again pretend to care. “Happy Valentine’s Day!” I’ll shout out first thing in the morning. I’ll make them heart-shaped pancakes for breakfast! Oh, and I know – I’ll encourage them to dress in red! (That’s what people do, right?) [tagbox tag=”valentine’s day”]

Truth is, I tell my kids I love them every day of the year. Sometimes, I’ll randomly say my son’s name and before I can even finish my sentence, he’ll say (with slight irritation), “I know, you love me, Mom.” He’ll say this even when I was actually going to tell him to shut off the TV or pass the salt. Which helps explain why I find Valentine’s Day to be so contrived. I guess I don’t feel I need a Hallmark holiday to spread the love.

That’s not to say that those people who are really into Valentine’s Day aren’t spreading the love year-round, either. I’m sure most of them are. But I still don’t get what all the fuss is about.

That said, I will continue to make a minor fuss until my kids are old enough to decide for themselves what to make of this lame-o holiday. I may hate it, but I love my children and I recognize that childhood should be filled with fun little treats and celebrations. I won’t deprive them of that. But I will cringe when I pay for those damn chocolates, and the person working the cash smiles and wishes me a Happy Valentine’s Day.

(Photo: ButterflySha on Flickr)