I admit it. I’m a sucker for Valentine’s Day paraphernalia. I love pink, purple, and white hearts adorning everything from coffee mugs to paper napkins; picture frames with gooey clichés; heart shaped sugar cookies dripping with icing; tchotchkes that serve no form or function except to collect dust and look cute. American marketers love people like me—someone whose inner child adores any and all holiday themes. Especially Valentine’s Day.
My husband has been known to bring me flowers, but he doesn’t quite appreciate trinkets in the same way I do. Perhaps it’s a male-female thing, or maybe just a dominant-pragmatic gene in his DNA. It took me a few years to realize that we celebrate holidays in different ways, and if I was looking for someone to appreciate tiny bits of glitz and glam with me, I’d better turn my attention to my children.
When Mother’s Day and Father’s Day roll by, my children always ask, “Why isn’t there a Kid’s Day?” To which I retort, “Because everyday is kid’s day.” But a few years ago, I decided to turn Valentine’s Day into a celebration of love in family form and show my children how much I appreciate and love them. It also helps make up for the fact that I yell a lot. Yes, I’m mediocre and tend to compensate for my lack of patience with fun holiday celebrations. So sue me.
I don’t go overboard, mind you, and shower them with tons of expensive presents or try and outdo the year before. I’ve learned the hard way that establishing traditions can sometimes come back to bite me in my cupcakes; what sounds like a fabulous idea for a year or two, can become a two-ton gemstone as time marches on. There are a few gemstones I’ve been carrying around my neck that I wish I could go back in time and slap myself for.
But each year on Valentine’s Day, I start our mornings off with a celebratory breakfast. I decorate the kitchen with streamers or balloons, place clingy gel hearts in the windows, perhaps place a centerpiece on the table. I always purchase a new gaudy red, pink, or purple vinyl table covering and use heart-shaped plates and decorative napkins.
This year I’m making carrot muffins with pink cream cheese icing, serving strawberries and raspberries, bacon, coffee (for me and my husband), and cranberry juice for the kids. On each child’s plate is a tiny paper box container—the ones I think are so cute but I rarely know what to put in —filled with a smattering of their favorite candy and a chocolate covered Oreo. Their gift is a small token never costing more than a few dollars, a new notebook, a pen or pencil they’ve been wanting, stickers, or a silly magnet for their locker at school. This year I bought each of them a pair of dime-store sunglasses for our upcoming trip to Arizona. And I buy them cards. It occurred to me that I rarely write down how I feel about my children for them to read. My husband and I sign their cards with encouraging words about how proud we are of their accomplishments, what a great young lady or man they are becoming, the ways they make us smile and laugh. Sure, those cards end up getting recycled; but I’m hoping that the messages they send remain with my children for years to come. And if they don’t, well, I can say I at least tried.
The best part of our romantic family breakfast is that the night before my children ask if I’m going to “decorate like last year.” I always feign like I have no idea what they are talking about, and why would I do such a thing? That would be a lot of trouble wouldn’t it, to create a big, family breakfast on a school and workday? Why in the world would I do that?
And with squeals and delight, the next morning they find a kitchen dripping with tchotchkes and streamers, heart-shaped food, and a treat or two. We live it up family-style on Valentine’s Day, because you know what tomorrow is right?
Yep. A regular day. Which means I’m back to yelling.
Any of you GEM’s out there celebrate with your kids? Or is the class party enough of a celebration for you?
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Rachel Vidoni is a professional writer and blogger and former classroom teacher. She is a mediocre mother to three pretty neat kids. You can follow her humor and family blog at www.eastcoastmusings.blogspot.com. You might not be a better parent after reading her blog, but you will feel like one.