This was the first year in almost two decades that neither of my kids filled out Valentines.
It didn’t even occur to me until I started seeing pictures and status updates on Facebook referencing the once-grim task of having a six-year-old print a name in a space smaller than my pinky finger, then trying to coerce them to write their own name on the bottom, and multiplying that entire production by about 25 classmates, plus a teacher.
By the time you got to the fifth Valentine, the kid was only writing his own name and mom was writing the names of the classmates. By the time you got to the fifteenth kid, mom was doing all the writing and sealing and anything else that would speed up the process so you could all pack up and go to bed.
It’s something I never thought I’d miss.
I do, though, much to my surprise. There are no Valentine exchange parties in Grade 7, no empty tissue boxes decorated with red and pink construction paper hearts and paper doilies, no sitting at their desks after all of the cards are distributed and opening the envelopes to see who each one is from.
In Grade 7 they’re all too old to care about Valentines, and they forget how just a few short years earlier, they would make a whole evening out of going to the store with their mom to pick out which box of cards they were going to hand out (would it be Spongebob? Transformers? Disney Princesses? The options were endless). That opening the envelopes at their desk would be an adventure in itself, just to see who gave out the coolest kind. That they would go home and spread out all their cards on the kitchen table for their mom to look at.
I’m sure they must miss the cupcakes and cookies and candy that always accompanied the Valentine’s Day parties. And there’s no way they’ve grown tired of the thrill of receiving a card from their crush, which was always the highlight of digging through the day’s take. Over-analyzing the silly rhyme on the Valentine from your crush is like a rite of passage.
And speaking of silly rhymes, weren’t those the best? The classic Valentines from 30-plus years ago had the funniest, corniest phrases and puns, like a picture of two pickles with the caption, “you mean a great dill to me” or two people on a toboggan with the caption, “there ‘SNOW doubt we belong together.” No finer “Dad Jokes” to be had than the ones on 1980s Valentine cards.
If only those kids knew that they were embarking on a journey toward $4 carnations for the cute redhead from math class and anonymous candygrams for the captain of the basketball team, that the over-analysis of their crush’s Valentine would reach a whole new level. That they will probably spend many years down the road wishing Valentine’s Day was as simple and joyous as is was in elementary school.
And I’m sure they will wish that when they get older, because the tendency to blow February 14 way out of proportion seems to gain a bit more momentum every year of a person’s young adulthood, often plateauing somewhere around the late 20s/early 30s or when someone gets married, and then it finally – mercifully – wanes. (My husband has it easy, I think. I like just a thoughtful card of the one-dollar variety – no flowers or gifts, but rather a celebration of 75 per cent off chocolate somewhere around St. Patrick’s Day.)
Much as it’s been given a bad rap for its insincerity and commercialization, I am all for a day that celebrates love, and there is no reason why we shouldn’t recognize it and spread it around as much as possible. Back in the day the Valentine’s Day party would last all afternoon, but due to curriculum constraints and other considerations, I expect the whole production is much shorter than that, these days.
I hope some of the traditions will be maintained in the classroom, because I expect at least one sap in the crowd will want to reminisce about it in 30 years time, like this one just did.