When I was in high school, Valentine’s Day was one of my favorite holidays. Given that my mind worked like one big romantic Broadway musical, this is fitting. As I became more jaded with age, though, I concluded that Valentine’s Day was nothing more than a scam, designed to make couples feel compelled to make grand gestures and purchases and singles feel as though they were missing out on something grand.
My husband and I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day. Sure, we gave each other obligatory gifts the first year we were together because that’s what you’re supposed to do when you fall in love with someone, right? But as we got to know each other better, we were delighted to discover that neither one of us believed in celebrating a holiday designed, we felt, to make card and chocolate companies richer.
A few years ago, upon hearing that my husband hadn’t planned to get anything for Valentine’s Day because we don’t celebrate it, a student of his argued with him: “Nah, Dr. Nail, your wife’s just saying she doesn’t want anything. All girls want flowers.” I don’t dare speak for all girls, but I concede that this girl wants flowers. Just not on Valentine’s Day — aka the highest markup day of the year. (Dear hubby, if you’re reading this, you can certainly buy me flowers any other calendar day.)
The way we see it, it’s important for your significant other to know s/he is loved every day, not just when greeting card companies tell you to show you care. For us, cards and gifts — and for me, flowers — are more meaningful when received at unexpected times “just because.” Furthermore, Valentine’s Day puts so much pressure on relationships: finding the right gift, planning the perfect meal … who needs more stress? Bah humbug!
And so we have spent almost 14 years blissfully ignoring Valentine’s Day.
It was always assumed that when we had a child we would raise him without Cupid. Just as he would be exposed to Christmas at my in-laws’ houses but not at ours, it would be fine for him to receive Valentine’s gifts from his Grammy and exchange Valentines at school. We just wouldn’t celebrate the holiday at home.
Digging through my spoils of a recent trip to the store, my husband pulled a book out of the shopping bag. “What’s this? Where’s Baby’s Valentine? What, now that we have a child we’re suddenly celebrating Valentine’s Day?”
Busted. The book just found its way into my cart. My son loves all the Where’s Baby’s (fill in the blank)? books, so I didn’t give much thought to it. That night, though, I gave a lot of thought to my purchase. Did I deep down want to celebrate Valentine’s Day with my son? And if so, would that make me a huge hypocrite?
Looking at the wonder in my boy’s eyes as he explores the world around him, I realize that yes, I do want to bake red and pink cupcakes with him. I do want to put conversation hearts in his lunchbox. I do want to see his face light up when I thank him profusely for the Valentine he made me. Hypocrite or not, I do want to celebrate Valentine’s Day with him.
I imagine the conversation we’ll have, similar to the one my husband and I had, when he gets older. We’ll instill in him the understanding that it’s not Valentine’s Day that matters; it’s what Valentine’s Day reminds us — that it’s important to show our loved ones that we care about them, ideally every day. But for now, I’ll enjoy his innocence. And all the heart-shaped paraphernalia that goes with it.
How do you feel about Valentine’s Day? Did your feelings change when you had kids? Share your thoughts in the comments.