Some thoughts on this day…
Like many time-honored traditions, there is a new modern twist on the Valentine’s Day card exchange. Judging from my facebook feed, handmade cards are very passé. More precisely, handmade cards made by actual children are passé. What is very au courant is Pinterest inspired Valentine’s perfection, painstakingly executed to perfection by the parent. I have seen more cute letterboxes with cats, monsters, minions with their mouths open to catch cards. There are cute cards with clever sayings that tie in with the theme of the attached confection. Witty clever creations. All done by a parent.
Most of my friends have children in Elementary School. I know the children’s skill level – the cute “Bee” Mine card with the adorable, perfectly formed heart wings is not within their capability. I haven’t seen a single child’s handmade card on facebook. I have seen many cute cards, funny cards, some witty cards, all reflecting the parents crafting abilities.
It looks like some parents are very busy making homemade Valentine’s cards for their kid’s classmates. Something my mother would’ve never done.
When did parents hijack their kid’s Valentine’s Day?
Before I start sounding judgmental, I need to make a full disclosure. In the Fall, I made my daughter’s Kindergarten community craft project. They were studying community and buildings and each child needed to bring in a shoebox size building. My daughter wanted to make a church. So she got a box and started decorating it. It looked sloppy. Nothing like a church. It irritated me; there were pieces of paper glued askew, the windows were sideways. So I trashed it (yep, I did.) and told her “we” could do better. By the end she had a perfect church with a mosaic glass window made from sculpey, a glittery snow covered rooftop and red doors that actually opened. It was made from a birdhouse that I painted white. I spent hours working on it. I scolded her when she tried to help because she would ruin it. I was proud of my creation, but not proud of myself as a parent. The building meant very little to her when she finally took it to school. For me it came to symbolize something very different, it meant that I have so very much to learn as a parent.
With the building project scolding fresh in my mind, I took a more hands off approach to the creation of Valentines cards. It took us three nights to do her cards. She cut and glued and wrote with abandon, but it was painfully slow. I sat there, desperate to assist and make the cards look cuter, maybe with a theme. I wanted to insert my artistic ideas, but she shooed me away. She was slow and messy. Her designs were haphazard and confusing. Some looked modernist, a lone tiny sticker on a giant card, others had so many layers of foam stickers that I struggled to get them in the envelope.
As she glued blue hearts for boys and put on pink stickers for girls, I secretly wished I would’ve taken the Pinterest-Mom route and just done it myself – like a proper Pinner – late at night with a glass of wine and a great idea culled from hours of pinning. One artsy late night evening and this would be done (and better than hers, with a theme to boot!)
But I had to rein in my creative control juices and found myself watching her wondering why so many parents take over these projects. Is it simply just easier to do ourselves? Are we lacking in creative outlets and take over so we can have fun too? Or is it something darker? Is it our fear of their childish artistic “imperfections” and the misguided notion that a sloppy card is somehow a reflection of poor parenting? Does that mean those beautiful card bearing kids have the best parents?
Then I watched as my daughter wrote, “I love you” on a card to one of the boys in her class. I wanted to make her start over and give that card to her grandparents. I was embarrassed for her and wanted to save her any potential recriminations for boldly throwing her emotions out there. I saw that I just wanted to protect her and make sure she’s accepted and fits in a socially approved manner. That’s why I wanted to make the community building, that’s why I wanted to fix her sloppy cards; I want to make her path easier.
I hesitantly broached the idea that she can’t write that. She told me that even though they’re not friends, he needs to know that he’s loved. That’s what Valentines is all about, she said.
And yes, that is what Valentines is all about. That and handmade cards, from the heart.