I admit that I'm not a fan of Valentine's Day, haven't been since fifth grade, when all the girls in my class received a Valentine from one boy or another, except for me. Never mind that the boys who gave them Valentines were probably the ones who either picked their boogers and ate them, now reside in cell #8 on Block C and are called "Bitch", or wet their pants well into sixth grade, but sitting there in class and realizing that I had been excluded, my cheeks became flushed in embarrassment, humiliation spread in my chest and gut, and I learned a couple of harsh life lessons: Not everybody was going to like me, and I was going to be left out of things.
Back then, my hair was boy-short, with some mullet-like curls in the back, I had a crooked, goofy smile, bushy eyebrows, big front teeth, and an even bigger nose. Nobody was accusing me of being pretty. Based on my physical appearance, it was totally understandable why none of the boys wanted me to be their Valentine; I wouldn't have given a Valentine to me.
Every year after was pretty much a repeat of the Valentine's Day of fifth grade, but I got used to it so it stopped being embarrassing and just was what happened. Eventually, I outgrew my physical goofiness, got a little prettier, got a boyfriend here and there, got a Valentine here and there, but after a while, I started to realize that they didn't really mean anything. Everything about the whole day started to feel manufactured, forced, overplayed, Hollywoodized, like a total cliche, and I saw how it set a lot of people up to expect big things, only to be disappointed. In college, I worked in a restaurant and watched people wait two hours for a table, then by the time they got seated were so pissed and hungry that their night was basically ruined. This only served to reinforce the ridiculousness of the day.
The first Valentine's Day I spent with Nate, we had been dating for a few months. I got him a card and wrote in it that I despised the day and thought it was stupid but here was a card, anyway. He got me a card, and had written the exact same sentiment in it.
My heart sang at the fact that he hated the day, too. Over the years, we've half-heartedly acknowledged the day some of the time, usually ignoring it overall. It means more to me when he gives me flowers, a small gift, or a card for no reason, on a day when he isn't "expected" to, than it would ever mean on Valentine's Day.
This year, Ethan is in first grade and Connor is in preschool. I bought Valentines for the boys to give their classmates (ALL of their classmates) along with some lollipops, erasers, and stickers to put in little Valentine's bags with the cards. The boys sat at the table last Saturday and made out their cards and filled the bags with the treats. It was incredibly cute to watch. They were happy and it was infectious.
Yesterday, Connor came home from preschool with a giant paper heart filled with Valentines. He and Ethan excitedly went through the Valentines, with Ethan reading them to Connor while Connor pulled all of the candy and erasers and other treats off of them. "Wook, Efan! Another wollipop!"
Once again, their happiness was infectious. Ethan told me that he can't wait to see what he gets for Valentine's Day, and I said, "Me too, Buddy."
Because I want to see them happy. I want another day of watching them excitedly go through their bag of goodies. I want them to enjoy the day for now because someday, they're going to feel the sting and humiliation of rejection, and some or all of the magic might be taken away from them. And while I know from personal experience that it will only make them stronger and more aware of how the world really works, for now, I'm going to soak up their innocence.
And celebrate love every day of the year, and let the sweet cards the boys made for us work a little magic inside of me.