Call me the Grinch of Valentine’s Day. I’m a tad irritated with how we are forced to celebrate Valentine’s Day at school these days. I’m also wondering exactly what we are teaching children about money and values with these activities.
Both of my boys had to give Valentine’s Day cards to everyone in their class today (24 in T’s class and 20 in M’s class). In addition, the request came through on Friday that T should bring in a flower for his teacher today. All of this posed a problem for me on a number of fronts:
- Valentine’s Day has traditionally been about romantic love. “Be Mine” is the message at the heart of this day. Yet, here we are, asking young children to send Valentine’s Day messages to each other. Retailers have successfully made this the holiday of “like” rather than “love?”
- Not all of the kids in each class really like each other. Sure, they get along with each other, but would they choose to have a one-on-one play date with everyone in the class? No. I understand why we say you have to send a Valentine’s Day card to everyone in the class. I definitely don’t want to see this become an exercise in popularity. But the flip side is that we are asking our kids to be insincere. We are telling them they have to write a card of friendship to everyone, whether they feel that friendship or not. T, at age nine this year, found this really hard. He didn’t understand why he had to do this. It felt wrong to him.
- We ended up spending $7.00 on two sets of pre-made kids cards and the boys spent half an hour filling them out. I resent that I had to spend that $7.00 for something I don’t believe in. I know $7.00 is a small amount, but it’s the value behind the action that was the problem.
- The eco-mom in me also hates the sheer waste in materials. The cards come home and are tossed on the table where they are left. Maybe other families hang them on the wall. My boys couldn’t care less. They end up in recycling within 24 hours. I’m not sure that they even read them.
- As for the flowers, our options were limited. It’s February, we don’t have any flowers in the garden. I found myself contemplating a few blooms in gardens in the neighborhood but quickly reminded myself that stealing is a not value I want to teach! At the store, a single rose was $5.95. We went through our options and ended up with a bunch of tulips for $6.99 – one can go to school and I’m selfishly keeping the rest for me. But again, not my choice to spend this. Don’t get me wrong. I love T’s teacher and think she’s doing an awesome job. I just don’t think she should be T’s Valentine.
What have I taught my boys with all of this?
- It’s OK to be fake about your feelings
- It’s good to spend money on things you don’t want so you can celebrate a holiday and fit in with everyone else
- Valentine’s Day is really important and you better be ready to spend money on it each year (great indoctrination for the retail industry!)
Trust me, I do get that there are some good intentions behind all of this activity at school. By having the kids write nice things to each other, they can strengthen the bonds of friendship in class and possibly establish more friendly interactions between kids that don’t get on that well. It’s nice to celebrate and recognize friendship. It’s good to show appreciation for our teachers.
I just think they are better ways to do this. Friendship as a topic can be explored and studied in a way that doesn’t link it to a forced mass mailing activity.
I should reveal an additional reason why I’m the Grinch of Valentine’s Day. My husband and I don’t celebrate it as a couple. Early on in our relationship, he made a persuasive case that he should not be forced to demonstrate romantic love just because of a holiday. He promised to be romantic throughout the year and not just on one day. So I agreed to drop Valentine’s Day and ten years later, he’s still living up to his promise. I have no desire to renegotiate the agreement as I get the winning side of the bargain here.
What did your kids have to do for Valentine’s Day this year? How much did you spend? Any suggestions on what I can do differently next year?
[Phew! moment: Six year old M decided to write a personalized note on a few cards. Luckily, I checked them. Found one for a girl which read “You may be fat but you are good at bat.” Immediate teachable moment on how it’s not kind to comment on how other people look. T chimed in “You never tell a girl she’s fat!” New card written and delivered focusing on her batting skills.]