Ah, Valentine's Day. One of my favorites. Oh, the haters love to say it's a made up holiday, blah blah blah, just designed to get us to consume. As the kids say: Whatevs. Because I love a holiday that's all about love. And now that Hubs and I have been together over 15 years, the good news is I've trained him well. He knows the routine: card. Chocolate. Roses. Something sparkly. Formulaic, I know, but it works for both of us. As a left-brained engineer, he likes an algorithm where he can drop in known variables to get the same result every year: a smiling wife.
Oh, yes, I have many warm Valentine's Day memories with Hubs. We met on February 10 (yes, I'm a girl. I remember the exact day. And what I weighed then. But I digress), so Valentine's Day is kind of an anniversary for us. We would repeat our traditions every year: candlelight dinner. Sipping champagne. And watching "Sleepless in Seattle," which he brought over with a heart shaped chocolate chip cookie for our first V-Day. The cookie was from his mother to him, but to his credit, he shared it with me. So many sweet, romantic memories.
And then: we had children.
Oh, sure, the romance is still there. But when you have three kids eight and younger, Valentine's Day grows to match its container, not unlike a goldfish in a Koi pond. Now, Valentine's Day has become instead The Great Valentine's Initiative. In order to pull off Valentine's Day for three children at school (not to mention your poor, beleaguered Hubs), you must possess the strategic planning skills of an Erwin Rommel (look it up). It turns out arranging everything you need for a family Valentine's Day is not for the feint of heart.
First: you better start early. The locusts come out to feed. Women who are good at this stuff are buying Valentine's supplies in December. The stores are down to hard candy and Backstreet Boys valentines by February 1. Wait until February, and you won't find the specific cartoon character Valentines your child will melt down without. Do not make a mistake and buy Hello Kitty when your four year old daughter requested Dora. You will pay. Dearly.
Teachers will then require you to purchase fruit trays or pretzels or plates or juice boxes for the class which must be procured and delivered on the day of the party. Your child must somehow not drop and ruin these foods between your mini-van and his school room. There must be a small but tasteful gift for teachers. Between my children, there are five. There should be a Valentine from each child to each teacher with a sweetly crafted passage about your child's adoration.
And then there's the night before the children's parties at school, at which time you will create an assembly line that puts the largest Toyota factory in Japan to shame. Pencils must be poked through, magnets slipped in, and lollipops taped into valentines. Tiny, cheap heart stickers must be peeled up and applied, and they will never hold the damn things together. You will address no fewer than 130 of these Chinese made valentines (do they even know who Dora the Explorer IS in China?).
And then's there's the morning of the party. Do the children have their valentine garb on? You know, the five dollar t-shirt they pressured you into buying at Old Navy that they will never don again after this day? Do they have their required snacks? The valentines? It is possible to need a sherpa to help schlep all of the valentine goodies to school.
Don't forget you must attend the party at school! Make arrangements. Haul younger children. Never mind everyone's having these parties at the exact same time, so like Clooney on Oscar night, you must make the rounds if you have multiple children, triggering a nuclear sibling rivalry meltdown for whomever doesn't get your visit first. Children will be swinging from the ceiling, having been pumped up for weeks about Valentine's Day and then stuffed full of sugar. The room will be crowded with a ring of weary adults avoiding conversation with one another and checking their watches.
Finally, the haul home. Do the math: three kids, about 25 little scrappy valentines apiece, boxes, bags, or mailboxes, and candy to wrestle away from the kids before dinner. I shudder to think about the carbon footprint Valentine's Day has: you will be able to paper your master bath with the number of cheap folded valentines your children bring home from school. You will fear for their health as they consume roughly three pounds of carbohydrates. Their sugar rush can and will last for days. Prepare yourself to watch your children act as if they're on crack. It's Valentine's Day, people, and they are READY TO PARTY LIKE CHARLIE SHEEN. Lock up your tiger blood.
Hubs and I are often too tired to stay up to watch "Sleepless in Seattle" now as we are officially Sleepless in McKinney, Texas. If Hubs were to bring me a heart-shaped chocolate chip cookie, it would be crumbs in the pan before I could get to it. A glass of champagne, and I'm snoring like a congested heifer. Needless to say, some of our romantic traditions have been tweaked from the age BC (Before Children).
But despite all of the above, don't get me wrong. Valentine's Day is better than ever after children, because the love has doubled...and in our case, tripled. Oh, it's chaotic. It's demanding. You will work your heinie off to make it happen. But when they grin at you with their mouths ringed with chocolate and say, "I love you, Mommy!" it's all worth it, isn't it?
And all of this because two people fell in love.