Parents

Valentine's Day Reality Check

02/06/2017 12:33pm ET | Updated February 7, 2017

As I aimlessly wandered the aisles of Target finding random stuff I didn’t need, while conveniently forgetting about all the stuff I did need, I was approached by a sweet and slightly panicked stranger who wanted my opinion on which Valentine’s cards to craft for her four-year-old’s class. Since my shopping cart was carrying the wildly energetic bodies of my four- and seven-year-old I was inadvertently putting out the “I’ve done this before” vibe. Which I had. Given that I’m well versed in four-year-olds and acutely aware of their exceedingly low standards, I know that they haven’t yet cultivated a deep appreciation for the time, effort and expense that goes into a well executed Pinterest craft. Let’s be honest, they pick their nose, ask to watch “Caillou” and believe ketchup is a condiment that belongs on everything from grapes to cookies. Needless to say, they’re not exactly crafting aficionados.

As this mom and I stood surrounded by heart-shaped everything, in varying shades of pink and red, weighing the merits of a squeeze applesauce pouch with a custom label that said “Valentine, you’re my main squeeze” and the equally cute but no less unnecessary bouncy ball with a custom tag that said “Valentine, you’re out of this world,” I realized two important things:

  • I wanted to slap this well-meaning mom.
  • Crap. I think I may have sounded just like her.

Yes, this person is definitely a version of me who at one time existed. I am her and she is me. We stay up late and scour Pinterest long after our kids have drifted off to sleep. Attempting to discover and recreate cute, crafty and clever little Valentine’s treasures that our children’s classmates will undoubtedly discard. The mothers though, ah yes, the mothers will see these perfectly executed crafts and maybe think “Oh, wow, this mom has totally got her shit together! Look at this super cute Valentine she made with her kid!”

The question is, why?

Why does it matter what the other parents think of me or this woman standing next to me? Were we not hugged enough as children? Are we repressing some Valentine’s related trauma where we didn’t give out the cool cards and suffered the agony of inadequacy as four-year-olds? Maybe we’re subconsciously trying to prevent our children from experiencing this same PTVD (Post Traumatic Valentine’s Disorder).

When I was a kid, my parents took me to the store to choose whatever random and lame cards spoke to my adolescent self, and represented my individuality. I loved it and I remember looking forward to the Valentine’s exchange. The excitement of seeing the variety of cards everyone had selected. Not knowing if you’d get an extra special one from your best friend or that boy you secretly liked. Yes, even without my mother crafting cards for the entire class I still managed to enjoy myself. Unthinkable, right?

Lisa Frank
Valentines circa 1990.

So the question remains: Why on earth am I, or this other woman, or any of us for that matter, inserting ourselves into our kid’s experiences and trying to make them our own? This is for them and their friends to enjoy. Not for us to jockey for position of “craftiest mom” or “mom who most has her shit together.”

I promise you, my mother would never have considered looking in a magazine or wherever mothers sought inspiration from before the days of Pinterest for a clever and creative way to waste her time and money. All so children could carelessly discard what she’d spent her time and money on. It just wouldn’t have made any sense to her. Just like I’m sure it doesn’t make any sense to her now when she witnesses me doing it.

Why had this not occurred to me sooner?

I’ve crafted Valentine’s cards for the last four years, and now here I stand, staring year five in the face. Deciding whether to continue on the same pointlessly crafty path or to choose the road that’s rarely traveled anymore. The road to Target to let my child pick out a box of cards that speak to him.

Now don’t get me wrong, it would be another thing entirely if my child asked me to search the internet for a card craft we could do together, but he doesn’t. If you have that kid, then of course you should foster the creativity and encourage their uniqueness. This is for them after all and it should reflect their personality. If you, like me, have the kid who just desperately wants to pick out the tacky Star Wars or Hello Kitty paper card Valentines that maybe come with a sticker or tattoo, then by all means, let them!

But don’t make the mistake of concerning yourself with what the other moms think or whether or not they’ll see your store bought Valentines as a sign that you’ve given up. I did that, and I totally regret allowing myself to be sucked into this idea that as a mom I’m not good enough if I’m not making everything from scratch or handcrafting every assignment my child is given.

To my fellow moms I say this: Judge me not by my kid’s store bought Valentine’s cards, because I assure you I can craft with the best of them. Instead, let’s show our love for our kids by letting them choose for themselves and have fun with it. As little or as much as they want. And while we’re at it, let’s agree to stop trying to impress each other or outdo one another because it undermines what we’re all striving for, a fun and memorable childhood for our kids.

K. LeClair

Valentine’s Day 2017

K. LeClair

Thank you, Target.