Mom. What are those fat white or pink skinned babies that shoot arrows at nothing called again? For Valentine’s Day? They look like a church thing. We had them on the wall in kindergarten. It was this picture where there were two of them and they looked like this.
Wyatt arranged his arms and put his chin on them.
They are SO WEIRD.
He's not wrong. Cupids are pretty weird.
And let's be honest. Valentine’s Day is pretty weird. I mean, it's a mid-winter pagan fertility festival the Catholic Church co-opted to celebrate St. Valentine, during which many adults celebrate romance while children all over the United States give out cards to every single person in their class and eat more candy.
I think if you're lucky, you'll experience a Valentine's Day sweet spot at least once during your life. One where, if you want to be in a romantic relationship, you're part of one, and in your bliss and joy, you'll agree on how you want to celebrate the day and each other. Otherwise, Valentine's Day is, as one of my friends has always called it, "Single Awareness Day." And if you're a parent of an elementary school child (or an actual elementary school child), it can also be "Annoying Annual School Project Day."
For the last two years, Wyatt has had no interest in giving out valentines at school. Some kids did, and he was happy to receive them, but that was as far as it went. This year, however, Wyatt came home from school towards the end of January and announced they would be having a Valentine's Day celebration in their classroom. I barely suppressed a groan. I knew the drill--everyone needs to get a valentine, which is fair enough, but there are over 30 kids in his class. Sitting down to write cards and envelopes was going to be torture, even if we did only three a day. He went on, "My teacher says that if we make anything, we have to make something for everyone. And nothing can be store bought." While I wanted nothing to do with the project or the extra “homemade” challenge, I didn't want him to know that. So I asked, offering as much happy, light hearted empowerment as I could, "So, what's your plan?" He replied, "I'm going to make everyone a heart necklace. I have the supplies I need, because I have clay and yarn. But can I please borrow your heart cookie cutter? I don't need your help. I can do it myself." Hell yes, I thought. "That sounds terrific," I said.
Wyatt set to work that afternoon. And he worked on the project most days for the next week. He had probably made 50 hearts by the time he got to stringing the 30th necklace. Why? Because he initially made the stringing holes too small, and the hearts broke when it was time to push the darning needle through with the yarn. He revised his production methods along the way, ditching the toothpick and using a clay knife to make a bigger hole in the new and improved hearts. At one point, I assisted in making a few new hearts because he was so aggravated by the constant breakage, and I know how much it sucks to work on something and feel like you will never, ever finish it.
By the 30th necklace, though? He’d had enough. The last heart was perfect. The hole was just the right size! But he just couldn't bear to push the needle through and tie the last knot. "MOM," he announced, "I'M DONE WITH THIS PROJECT. I should have NEVER thought of it. It was a TERRIBLE idea. I am NOT stringing this last necklace. I don't even CARE. No one will get anything. I'm going to put them ALL IN THE TRASH."
We've all been there, right?
I tried cajoling him. "Come on. There's only one more! You're so CLOSE! You can do it. You've worked so HARD! And they’re so GREAT!" He wasn't having it. He yelled, "I DON'T CARE," and threw himself dramatically onto the sofa. Annoyed at his short-sightedness and unable to accept that it was okay for him to trash hours of work, I said in a serious voice, "I need to go switch the laundry. While I'm away, I want you string that last necklace. I want it to be done when I come back in here."
Much to my surprise, he did it. With that impasse behind him, over the next several days, he went on to wrap and sign all thirty little packages by himself.
If there is a moral to this story, I think it is this: Valentine's Day is flawed, and thanks to that, it's full of learning opportunities. For example, Wyatt learned that determination can require digging deep, and practicing generosity can be hard. I learned it's as important to step back as it is to lend a hand. Also? It's okay to want to throw everything away, but don't actually do it in a fit of rage. Finally, planning ahead is smart. All in all, solid life and love lessons, courtesy of a pretty weird holiday.