When I was kid, my mom would take me to the drugstore to pick out my Valentine’s cards each year. Turning each box over in my small hands, I’d consider the different character choices with an excitement and thoughtfulness that rallied costume-picking at Halloween. Once home, I’d draw a line through “From”, replacing it with “Love”, and add my name and the kid’s name (this always felt laborious by the time I got to 20).
Modern parents however have kicked up everything a notch from the olden days and there’s an unspoken rule that Valentine’s must be homemade. And they don’t just have to be homemade, they have to be kick-ass. Year after year I find myself marveling over some parent’s creativity when my girls arrive home with their Valentine’s. And with all the Valentine’s posts flooding social media, we have more opportunities to ooh and aah over things complete strangers have crafted. I’d like to think this is all inspiration but in the end it creates standards we try to live up to and a vague sense of competition no one wants to admit to. As I go through my kids’ Valentine’s cards, I enjoy a hidden satisfaction (in the far recesses of my mind that I would never admit to) when I see those store-bought ones, knowing my kids made theirs again. Cause clearly it meant I was a more attune and conscious parent, right?
In the past, I have given in to this mania. It was usually always a last minute, stressful effort that required combing pinterest boards, a late night run to Michael’s, sometimes even a template and then attempting to artfully lay out everything on the table at just the right angle so I could snap that pinworthy picture. I half convinced myself I enjoyed this, in the same way I “enjoyed” glue gunning unicorn horns at 11 p.m. the night before one of their birthday parties, which is not at all.
But this year I went to Walgreen’s on my lunch break from work and picked up two packages of store-bought Valentine’s. My kids don’t distinguish between the store-bought and homemade ones anymore than they do between my gluten-free, organic birthday cake from scratch with no food dyes of course and the cake out of a box with ingredients that make me shiver. They are just as happy to go to school with their store-bought, animal pictured Valentine’s as they were with those 40 hand-drawn and cut elephants with a heart glued to their noses that had their friends’ names written in two alphabets that one year. (Yes, I really did that—it was a family effort as I enlisted my husband to write Arabic).
I admit, if I had more time with my children than two hours each evening after work, I might be more inclined toward homemade, elaborate Valentines. But please, can that not be the standard for us all? Modern parenting sometimes complicates the simple in our attempt to be superheros. I think we sometimes believe that it’s the marker of how involved or committed we are as parents.
I am putting my foot down this year. After all, I am quite sure my kids won’t remember that we made homemade Valentines that dissolved every second of my spare time with them, making me half crazy. But they will remember dancing to Pharrell’s “Happy”, reading books in bed snuggled up together and my holding their hands every night until they slept.
So if your kids are in class with mine, yep it was my kid with the unoriginal store-bought Valentine. And I am more than fine with it. In fact I am wondering why I never made Valentine’s Day this easy on myself before.