Oh my fellow parents, what have we done to ourselves? Somehow, in an effort to ensure our children enjoy their childhoods or to help ourselves feel good about our parenthood (i.e. less guilty about working, staying home, getting a divorce, staying together, moving, not moving, not giving them a sibling, giving them to many siblings etc.) we’ve arrived in a world where the calendar is no longer marked by the turning of one month to the next, but instead by the turning of one holiday to the next.
We move through the year at a rapid clip. We start off with ball drops and valentines and leprechauns and move swiftly to bunnies and flags and fireworks. Before our sparklers fizz their final kid-friendly fizz we head to the pumpkin patch, plopping our tots and hay bales and sweating our way though corn mazes. From there we dive into the season of gratitude during which we give thanks for Amazon prime and drive-through everything. Then the month long marathon of remembering to hide the elf and stock the calendar with chocolate begins. We round out the year with the man in the big red suite and finally, once the cookies have been eaten and the wrapping paper tossed and the new toys ranked by favorites, we rest. For six days.
Then we start all over again.
Thrown in the middle of our holiday centric year are various family birthdays, anniversaries and milestones we simply can’t let pass without some kind of instagramable celebration. At each juncture we craft and bake and create to ensure our children “experience” the holiday rather than simply celebrate it.
While every family celebrates things differently it’s hard to deny that things have become much BIGGER since today’s parents were kids themselves. Easter is the new Christmas, with baskets overflowing with candy, toys and treats, community wide egg hunts, and afternoons spent sweetly dying eggs. And what, you ask, is the new Easter? That my friends is Valentine’s Day.
Valentine’s Day, now celebrated not only at home and at school but also at EVERY extra-curricular a kid is involved in, has gotten big. Where a foldable Valentine from CVS may have cut it when you were a kid (BIG bonus if there was an off-brand tootsies roll taped inside) there now seem to be a whole set of things that “good” parents just DO. No, there’s no set of formal rules to follow and no one will say you’re a bad parent for skipping out on the hippest, hottest most wholesome trends of the season, but if you run in certain circles you’ll surely be the odd man (or mom) out if you do.
Sure, it feels good to make our kids feel good and it can be fun to make the holidays special but, if all your hard work’s not bringing you some major joy, it’s probably time to cut it out. This Valentine’s Day skip obsessing about what you “should” do and keep it simple by crossing these chores off the list.
You don’t have to buy your kid a Valentine’s Day outfit
In order to be a good parent this Valentine’s Day you don’t have to buy your baby a “my first valentines” onesie. Your daughter doesn’t need ruffle bottom pants. Your son is not required to wear a “little heartbreaker” shirt. No one needs a bow or a bow tie or anything in any specific shade or red or white or pink. Sibling sets (even twins!) don’t need to match or coordinate or even look half decent standing next to one another. On February 14th, in order to be a good parent your child should wear clothes, something weather appropriate if they’ll cooperate. Shoes are a bonus.
You don’t have to craft anything
You don’t need to paint your baby’s feet and try to angle them just right as you press them to paper so they make a little heart you can Instagram and toss in their keepsake box. You don’t have to glue googley eyes or pom-poms or shaped cut-outs onto anything at all. You can leave the glitter tucked away and the colored pencils in their case. This Valentine’s Day, in order to be a good parent you should complement your kid’s art. Or hang something they made on the fridge. Or look at the “art” they brought home from school for more than five seconds before hiding it under yesterday’s paper in the recycle bin.
You don’t have to bake a special treat
Your kids don’t need to wake up to pancakes in the shape of hearts. They don’t need a pink smoothie or a sprinkled cupcake. Their friends don’t need caramel corn wrapped in red cellophane with a handmade tag that says “you make my eyes POP!!!” They don’t even need a Valentine’s Day little Debbie in their lunchbox. This February 14th your kids should eat. Regular food is fine.
You don’t have to have a photo session
This Valentine’s Day you don’t have to photograph anything to be a good parent. You don’t need to book a session with a photographer, you don’t need to “hurry up as mini sessions are filling fast!” There’s no need to strip your baby to their diaper in cover them in lipstick kisses or dress your toddler in a tutu and cupid wings. You don’t have to shop for coordinating-but-not-matching family outfits for your session on the farm or pick out the perfect boots for your snapshots on the train tracks. This Valentine’s Day, if you’re worried that your kid won’t have access to their childhood memories, pull up your facebook and remember that you’ve been posting their picture online since they were a fetus. Take comfort in the fact that your timeline is easier for them to take to college than any sort of baby book.
You don’t have to be involved at all in the class party
You don’t have to send in snacks. You don’t have to send in crafts. You don’t have to arrive early or stay late or take a long lunch to pass out cupcakes and wipe up spills. You don’t even have to apologize for not doing any of it. If your kid is too little for school, then you don’t have to organize a Valentine’s Day themed play date or tea party or picnic. If your kid is too little for school you don’t even have to tell them it’s Valentine ’s Day. This Valentine’s Day, in order to be a good parent you do whatever it is you do with your kid on any regular Tuesday.
This Valentine’s Day all you have to do is keep doing what you do all year long- love ‘em, feed ‘em and try your damn hardest to get those suckers to bed on time.