I’m going to say it here: personally, I’m just not into Valentine’s Day. But, as with many thing when you’re a parent, it means that much more when you see it through the filter of your children.
Reasons to not like Valentine’s Day
Why don’t I like Valentine’s Day? It’s not that I’m unromantic – although, in truth, I am fairly unromantic – it’s more that I’m jaded by the cynicism of it all. Card-makers, gift manufacturers, florists, retailers, restaurateurs – everyone seems to treat February 14th as an annual Fleece Your Customers Day.
Restaurants charge you twice as much to eat a set menu you didn’t really want at a time that doesn’t really suit you in a full dining room with consequently crappy service. You feel hopelessly inadequate when you order the second-cheapest floral arrangement online (never the cheapest, oh no) – and it still costs you £50. Chocolates are welcome, yes, but ruin that post-Christmas diet you’re on. And then to top it all off you accidentally buy each other the exact same card. (Yes, it’s happened to me.)
It’s so romantic, isn’t it? At its worst, Valentine’s Day is about spending too much money to do stuff you don’t necessarily want to do on a day that doesn’t suit you anyway.
Valentine’s Day chez nous
This year is the 23rd Valentine’s Day Heather and I have shared. (Yes, I know, I don’t look a day over 30. We got married when I was seven.) With three kids aged six and under, going through the rigmarole of getting a babysitter so we can go out and eat an overpriced meal at the end of a long week is not exactly at the top of my list of things I want to do on a Friday night.
Instead we’re doing what we’ve always done since the kids came along. We exchanged cards this morning (different ones this year – tick). I gave her a little box of two heart-shaped chocolates (bought in Selfridges when we went to London two weeks ago – no last-minute dash to Tesco here!) but other than that we don’t do presents. And we’ll flop wearily at home tonight with a takeaway of our choosing and just take a night off doing all the evening chores that are a daily inevitability in a household of five. It’s not romantic, but it’s what we want to do.
The best thing about today, though, was having an excited six-year-old bounding into our room demanding that we close our eyes so he could present us with his hand-made cards. Isaac takes great pride in both his own creations and expressing his feelings. He’s at an age now where he really understands the point of having special days and the value that his parents place on what he does to help celebrate them. He even took great delight in explaining to us that he’d carefully hidden them in a box in the study for the past few days to ensure they would remain a surprise.
And I guess that’s the point. When you strip away all the cynical commercialism and view Valentine’s Day through the eyes of a child, it’s just an opportunity to express love without all the material trappings we have come to associate with it. Kids are good like that at reminding us what life’s really about. Thanks Isaac. Unlike his dad, he really is a romantic at heart.