February 14th is often celebrated for its association to one Saint Valentine. The true story of the saint notwithstanding, we now celebrate his day as a secular holiday to profess love and passion for chocolate… or something like that. Pink, red, and sometime purple show up everywhere. For others, the day serves as a reminder of relationships gone bad, not having a special person to share it with, or other less positive things. All of us have a lifetime of memories and experiences that inform how we feel about the day. For dads, if can be even weirder.
As a father of toddlers, it’s another artwork holiday. I received two valentines from my boys last night, scribbled on with marker and crayon, with a sentiment that I’m sure they didn’t write. Silliness aside, they were quite proud to hand them to me and tell me they made them (though our daycare provider mixed up the envelopes, and the boys claimed credit for the other one’s work).
My wife also dropped off valentines last night to be handed out today at daycare, because that’s what you do. (Which we didn’t realize the first time the boys were around for Valentine’s Day). The holiday in general is one of the few in which school isn’t closed. Many of us remember our elementary/primary school days, with a box, bag, or other container stuffed to the brim with cards. My school had a rule that you had to give a valentines to everyone or no one. That didn’t stop creative 10 year olds from making one or two special valentines for friends or crushes. As you got older, the quantity decreased while the quality increased (maybe). And the chance for heartbreak increased.
Valentine’s Day Plans
But back to it as a father. Romance and passion are hard to keep going after marriage and kids. Some do it better than others, but the cultural trope of it withering away and dying exists for a reason. It takes effort and creativity, something I am often lacking. Valentine’s Day has never been my thing, even as a kid. It wasn’t that I disliked it, but more that it was another holiday that I kind of failed at. My clumsy attempts at wooing might have been seen as endearing, but I always felt pretty silly doing it. So I tended to shy away from anything as I got older.
My wife has always been good at the small gestures, even simple things like a random Lego Mini-Fig in my work bag. So probably because of my ineptitude, we reached a point where holidays were planned out (usually with her reminding me about them), and we had agreements on what the ground rules are (this extends to gift-giving as well). Valentine’s Day has never been huge in our house, but I almost always forgot to even get a card or chocolate.
This is a long-winded way of saying that I’m not really good at Valentine’s Day. As a dad, I’ve become even worse. With kids, you have the issue of trying to plan a date night. And since it’s a popular night, babysitters are in short supply, and family members likely have their own plans. So Valentine’s Day becomes another holiday dislocated from its actual day and moves to a Friday or Saturday night, sometime before or after. This is common and can be a problem, but at the same time, it can be liberating. You can do it on your own time, and as long as there’s agreement with your significant other, there are no hard feelings. So we’ll do something (maybe on President’s Day since it’s a holiday for her). I’m still not entirely sure what, but part of romance is letting things ride and seeing where it goes.
You might still want to pick up a card for February 14th, though.