Let me start with a confession: I have a love-hate relationship with Valentine’s Day.
It can be a special holiday filled with rich memories. I’ve planned extravagant dates and made cheesy homemade cards for the love of my life, skated around Hawrelak Park hand-in-hand, enjoyed first kisses, basked in the acoustic melodies of Bryan Adams ballads at the Winspear, and much more. But personally, I refuse to capitulate to the Hallmark holiday aspect that implicitly links our love to our wallets. Before we were married, I told my wife I would never buy her flowers in mid-February. And I’m a man of my word.
Yet somehow, as much as I can get away with this as a spouse, it’s a bit harder as a parent.
It’s difficult to tell your child “no” when every other parent says “yes.” And that’s what I, along with other Valentine’s curmudgeons, are struggling with in the lead up to Feb. 14.
My three-year-old attends preschool two mornings a week. My wife insisted on buying him a box of valentines so he could hand them out to every kid in his class. I think it’s silly: he can’t even write his own name, much less his friends’. But my wife doesn’t want him to be the only kid who doesn’t give out valentines because “he would be crushed.”
And we’re evidently on the cheap end of the spectrum. The new Valentine’s standard is becoming higher than just a childish cardboard cutout. Nowadays, they’re often accompanied by stickers, tattoos, erasers, and candy — it’s become a miniature treat bag. My wife even noticed one woman offering on Facebook to give away her LEFTOVER Valentine’s candy because she had bought even more than she needed.
Admittedly, I never cared much about exchanging valentines as a kid. And I’m a firm believer that children don’t get everything they want, and there’s value with sometimes being told “no.” But if I drink the Valentine’s Day Kool-Aid and conform to the parental peer pressure, at what point am I implanting a dangerous idea in the head of my preschooler: if everyone else is doing it, you should too?
At what point does an innocent little card become the gateway to uncritically embracing consumeristic group-think?
Then again, maybe I just don’t want to be exposed for being cheap.
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