Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Thoughts on Valentine's Day

So yesterday was Valentine's Day. I'll admit that we've officially fallen among the ranks of the old married folks, because it was pretty much a non-event. At least not compared to years past where we went out for a nice romantic dinner or bought nice gifts for each other. In general, I'm sort of torn about the holiday. It's definitely a Hallmark holiday, and I hate that it tends to be so forced. The whole, "You must do something nice for your significant other (or child or other loved one) on this specific day" thing just seems so commercial, so forced. On the other hand, sometimes things get so busy that you need a reminder like that to stop and do something special. In general I'm sort of torn about the gift thing, for any occasion. I mean, if I find the perfect gift for someone, I'm totally fine with buying it and giving it. But if nothing's jumping out at me and I'm going to end up resorting to something generic or cheesy, then I'd rather just skip it. That may not be the right thing to do socially, but quite frankly, I don't need a whole bunch of random stuff clogging up my house, and most likely the receiver doesn't either. Edible stuff is one thing, I suppose, but actual space-occupying stuff...ugh. It's more stress to have to find a place for it than I'm sure the giver would want. It's the thought that counts, I know...and I appreciate that. But sometimes, less is more. I suppose this is a bigger social issue relating to our consumer culture and our obsession with "stuff", and one simple blog post isn't going to change the world so I really need to just conform. Anyway...

Now that Jacob is around, there are a few different facets of Valentine's Day to consider. A couple years ago I was appalled when it was suggested that Jacob's class of babies would be exchanging valentines...but sure enough, he got a couple. Last year I asked and the teachers didn't seem to care either way. Again, as I recall, Jacob got a couple. This year it was a given that it would be happening, which I still find odd but at least the kids are old enough to know each other's names (and say them), so I went along with it. I used a box of valentines I got on super-clearance two years ago (Winnie the Pooh ones--not exactly Jacob's style, but do I care? Not really.). And then I got to thinking and realized that most kids were probably going to include something with their valentines, so I ended up getting suckers (not cool Valentine's-themed ones, unfortunately, as Wegmans didn't have them) and wrapping the valentines around them before sealing them with a sticker. And thank goodness I did, because quite a few kids gave stuff as well--a pencil, candy, stickers--and I wanted to keep up with the Joneses, I guess. Normally I don't want to subscribe to that theory, but when it comes to my child, it's hard. Kids are cruel and I don't want him to be ostracized for a social misstep like this down the road. I know it doesn't really matter now, but I sort of feel like I need to get myself used to this stuff now, before it becomes a big deal. Way overthinking, I know. But regardless, it makes me wonder when the world started moving away from just exchanging paper valentines. Same goes for birthdays. I sent cupcakes. Some kids send goodie bags o' stuff. Really?! Why? The kids are too young to care and the parents aren't even present to encourage competition. Why must we up the ante so much so early?

As far as gifts, we did get Jacob a couple things. He's got enough candy and toys to last him a while, though, so we just kept it simple. Craig gave him a little football figure that he bought for a rainy day (potty prize, etc.) that he'd been itching to give to him, and I gave him a book. Since he's been enjoying two hockey books that he got recently--Dino-Hockey, from my college roommate for Christmas; and Ben & Lucy Play Pond Hockey, which Craig got him when he was in Minnesota--I figured I'd add to it (thanks in part to that awesome Groupon deal recently to get $20 of Amazon merchandise for $10). I got him Z is for Zamboni, which is an alphabet book full of hockey references. I figured he'd like it since his alphabet knowledge is generally limited to the alphabet song, the letters on the wall next to his changing table, and associations with sports stuff ("B is for baseball", "K is for Knighthawks")...so this seemed right up his alley. I think he'll really grow to like it even more when he's older and can read some of the fine print on each page, the background info behind the main rhyming verse on each page.

I didn't get Craig anything, and he didn't get me anything. We got each other cards, which we both quickly filled out immediately before giving to each other. Romantic, huh? Craig got a card for Jacob (with an octopus on it, which is appropriate since octopi are an inside joke with us), and I hastily made a card out of a construction paper heart for Jacob to give Craig. Hmmm. As far as the lack of gifts, it's hard. If nothing else I'd probably just get Craig another movie or something along those lines, which he doesn't really need, and he'd probably get me flowers or something, which are nice...but they die. So in the end it's just spending money to spend money, to show you've thought about the other person and gotten them something. Again, if there's something perfect that you'd buy even if it weren't a holiday, that's fine. But no need to force it. I try to be pretty money-conscious, so even if Craig did get me jewelry or something else nice, I'd probably scold him for spending that much money. Again, romantic, huh?

As for dinner...well, Craig and I were originally planning on leaving Jacob home with Lori while we went out to dinner, which is pretty much par for the course for our nights out in recent years. However, I didn't think it was fair for Lori to have to spend her Valentine's Day with Jacob just because she's single, so, with Craig's approval, I decided we should all go out together. After all, I know what usually happens when we go out alone--Jacob freaks out when we leave and we rush through dinner and spend most of it talking about him (or work) anyway. Not exactly romantic. So, I figured we might as well try something different. I tried to think of a place to go that was family-friendly yet wouldn't have an out-the-door wait, but after driving by so many busy restaurants and hearing nothing but half hour waits, we settled on Ruby Tuesday so we could just get on with it. The food was good, but Jacob was a disaster. He was super tired much earlier than usual, wouldn't eat his food, and was just generally difficult--throwing crayons, crumpling up his placemat, playing with his straw--so it ended up being a not-so-great dinner, at least for me. Follow that up with some crankiness on my end about how I always feel like the "bad cop" parent and it was a pretty sucky and decidedly un-romantic end to our evening.

So...what can I say? It's one day, and it was meant to be a special one. Part of me knows we should have taken advantage of that and stoked the romantic fire a bit with a night out alone. But maybe part of me was afraid that it wouldn't be that romantic after all and we'd find ourselves bored with each other. We're both tired, we're both stressed, and sometimes it's hard to step outside of that and just enjoy each other's presence. But we have 364 other days of the year to try again. I guess I was a little too optimistic about Jacob's behavior, and I hoped it would be fun to do something different. Lesson learned.

Next year I hope I get better at planning in general. Better dinner choice, more planning for presents, and even more effort into Jacob's daycare valentines. I always enjoyed Valentine's Day as a kid--both the little gifts from my parents and school activities--and I want to make sure Jacob does as well. Sometimes it takes one stinker to learn a tough lesson, and hopefully next year I'll do better. With everything.

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