Ah, Valentine’s Day! A time to buy a box of the crappiest, most-character-covered, cheapest cards I can find, or to spend more money and time than the end products are worth to craft Pinterest-inspired, Instagram-worthy Valentines. All so my child—who can’t read—can give them to her classmates. Who also can’t read. If we’re really lucky, there will also be cheap tchotchkes and/or candy involved.
Folks, let me tell you something: Valentine’s Day is for lovers. It’s not a day for small children to hit on each other by saying, “Bee mine,” “Yoda one for me,” “You’re the icing on my cupcake,” or anything else punny. Now, maybe I’m just bitter because I didn’t get a Valentine from my fourth-grade crush, but hear me out.
Once you have a child, so much becomes all about that child. Lazy Saturday mornings in bed? Nope. A quiet, contemplative Christmas Eve church service followed by sipping cognac in front of the fire? Nope. Collecting as many beads as you can during a Mardi Gras parade? Yeah, no. Seriously, this year my kid opened my birthday present, which she gave me early because she wanted to play with it. Even date nights are few and far between in my area, where even an unexperienced teenaged babysitter goes for $12.50 an hour.
Children need to know they are loved by the adults in their lives. We can—and should—tell them that often. We can set aside special time to spend together one-on-one, just one parent and one child, and we can take time to tell our children what we like about them and why they are special to us. They don’t need a schmoopy Valentine’s card from us. Children also need to know they have friends who care about them. And, yes, they do indeed need to know the warm fuzzies that come with hearing that someone finds them attractive and doesn’t just “like” them, but “like likes” them. We as adults do not need to set aside mandatory affection time in the classroom for that to happen.
I love my kid, really I do. But I love my husband, too, and it’s important that we take time for things that are just ours, adults-only, and just-between-us. Even if you’re not inclined to celebrate such a cheesy, Hallmark holiday as Valentine’s Day, the annual occurrence of this day for lovers is a reminder to take a moment with your partner. Remember why you fell in love, share why you are still in love. Send a card, write a note, give a special something to your special someone. Touch your lover. So often we parents are so burnt out on touch after spending time with small children that we forget to kiss or hug our partner, or to cuddle on the couch watching TV or to hold their hand. Don’t forget.
Plan a date. It doesn’t have to be a Valentine’s Day date because we don’t have to be lemmings. Plus all the good restaurants and sitters are already booked. Use February 14th as a reminder to make those plans, though. Book a sitter (hi, Grammy!). Dress up. Go out. Eat somewhere that doesn’t have a kids’ menu, that requires reservations, and that serves food in courses. Order adult beverages. Order dessert. Don’t go home until you know the kid’s asleep—or you could be really decadent and book a hotel room for the night. Focus on yourselves and your romantic relationship. All the touch-basing you usually do about scheduling or money or dinner, and about school or work or the kid, and even about plans, hopes, and dreams for the future does keep you connected, but it’s the relationship equivalent of healthy eating. It keeps your relationship going and sustains your partnership, but it can be bland or boring without an occasional indulgence. Think of Valentine’s Day as the reminder to eat a donut, some really rich chocolate, or something fried and devoid of nutritional value. Indulge. And enjoy the fact that there are no little hands reaching for the deliciousness on your plate. Seriously: Valentine’s Day is one day that you don’t have to share.