My Beautiful Struggle + time

Ruining Magical Holidays since 2008

In case I've ever given you any reason to believe I'm one of those really good moms, allow me to pull back the curtain. I kinda suck.

Not in a hurt-my-child or they-never-have-clean clothes kind of way. No, I care for my children, but on occasions that other (read: good) moms use for fun and celebration and magic, I use to teach a lesson. Usually in ways convenient to my agenda.

We started the valentine's-making way back at the beginning of the week because I know me and how I suck. I assisted by cutting the coffee filters into a heart but wouldn't you know we don't have any markers. So they were stuck with plain old crayons to decorate, and H-boy declared he could do his own cutting of hearts and opted for the thin, grayish, highly-recycled paper we had on hand. Gorgeous, I'm telling you. Just gorgeous.

Yesterday we went another round of valentine-decorating. Miss M had laid out her special ones and named the friends she wished to give them. She had a whole stack so I worried little about needing to write names on each one. H-boy was writing them out to his friends (and their siblings, because that's what he does). But by the time we boarded the minivan this morning it was clear that neither had finished their valentine-making. The boy, especially.

The pile of unfinished, unimpressive homemade valentines. Go me.

I decided not to care. I felt some guilt as Miss M put them in some boxes and not others, despite the teacher's gracious supply of a class list. But I decided that the kids without one from her would never know the difference.

The whole cluster made me reflect on the holiday practices and what we teach our children. The day celebrates love and showing affection, but we do this by buying little cards and writing names on them. And we insist the kids make one for every single person lest someone feel left out - I get that. I don't want my kid to be the only one not getting cards.

On the other hand, is it really love? Or are we teaching them how to give tokens of purchased affection because "that's what we do" and provide yet another holiday to flood their little bloodstreams with sugar? To me, that seems to take away the magic of a day created to focus us on love and adoration. We can't possibly love 20 people with deep and equal adoration, so perhaps giving to the 19 might be hindering us from honoring the one.

While I love the discipline side of the practice - having him sit down and write out the names and give attention to the act will eventually grow in him a love and appreciation, or so the thought goes - I'm hesitant to force it upon him. What if he only wants to give 3 valentines? Why is that wrong? He's a boy that loves fiercely to those closest to him - but it may take a while to reach that inner circle. I don't want to instill the value of rote, thoughtless practice but rather cultivate a heart that desires to show affection. Forcing him to show affection to someone he doesn't authentically love seems to be a step in the wrong direction, especially for this boy.

I vow to all my kindergarten and elementary teacher friends, I'll get on the ball before it becomes an issue of hurting feelings. I don't need to be that mom all the time. But if we're going to celebrate love, I want them to truly love, from their centers and with their actions, not just with their names scribbled on cards.

*** Epilogue At lunch I decided to capitalize on opportunity. I had read an article about the roots of St. Valentine's day, how the great saint had healed the enemy's daughter before his beheading. I told the kids of the man, Saint Valentine and how we named the day after him because he was kind to people who were not kind to him. We talked about loving people who don't always love us and being nice to people who might not be nice to us.

I asked if they had anyone that perhaps wasn't always nice to them (and winced hoping they said no) - it turns out they feel like their siblings aren't always kind or loving toward them. H Boy said, "but I love her anyway." And my heart swelled.

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Ruining Magical Holidays since 2008 + time