Friday, February 6, 2015

Things I Suck At: Valentine's Day

You can't miss it. Everywhere you look there are signs that Valentine's Day is approaching. Uggggg.

Ok. Don't get me wrong. I am not a hard-core Valentine's Day hater. I admit that I do have a problem with society demanding that we must express our love for someone - ANYONE - on a certain day of the year - or else. I have 365 days or so every year to let my loved ones know how much I care for them. I try to make sure I do just that. My problem with Valentine's Day is that I am a recovering people-pleaser. Over the years I have failed so many times at getting Valentine's Day "right" - at least in my mind. My expectations always far outweigh my abilities and I am sent into another spiral of self-flagellation - at least mentally. Well, that is what USED to happen because I am in recovery now and I try very, very hard to cut myself some slack. It is a day-by-day thing.

So, my biggest challenge with Valentine's Day is not on the romantic front. Fortunately the men in my life never seemed to have huge expectations of how this day should be celebrated. A hug and a kiss, maybe a card, but don't count on it, and a promise for more intimate fun once the kids are in bed usually covers it. No, my worst nightmares have happened as a Mom. Because my kids attend school. And these schools insist on celebrating Valentine's Day. Every. Single. Damn. Year.  I also struggle with being extremely unorganized. Due dates constantly rise up to bite me in the rear - usually the night before - or worse - right AFTER they have passed. I have been tempted to be the Mom who takes a political stance AGAINST Valentine's Day and declares that MY CHILD will not be forced to give into any holiday thrust upon us by Hallmark and all of its consumerist allies. But then I look at how excited my daughter is at the idea of a party with her school friends and my dreams of political grand-standing evaporate.  My problem really isn't Valentine's Day - it's that I am Me. My worst Valentine's Day nightmare happened 20 years ago when my oldest daughter was just three-years-old. She was in pre-school and one day in February came home with a paper bag filled to the brim with Valentine's cards and candy from all her classmates. She happily showed me each one while telling me about the party they had that day. I smiled at her and nodded, but inside my head it was a completely different story.

"Crap - that party was today?!!"

"Double Crap - Cody didn't have any of her own Valentines to give to her class."

"Son-of-a.......was I supposed to send cupcakes or something?"

"Dear Lord, the Room Mom already thinks I am a flake. This pretty much confirms it."

"Hey, I feed her every day and make sure she has mostly clean clothes to wear. What more do they want from me?"

"God, please don't let them celebrate St. Patrick's Day or ANYTHING else the rest of the year. I just don't think I can handle it."

I wanted to blame her teacher for not giving me enough warning. But, of course, her teacher had sent home notes about it every week for the last several weeks. And Cody had been excitedly talking about it. No matter how hard I tried I just didn't have a good excuse for not having my shit together - again.

I think sometimes God spaced my children out as far as He did because He knew that I was going to need a significant amount of time to figure out some of these parental responsibilities. I am happy to say that ever since that first disastrous pre-school Valentine's debacle my kids have always had their own Valentine's cards/candy to share with their classes. Of course, because I am Me, there were some (several) years when we were out scavenging for them the night before or the morning OF the class celebration. A few times we even tried making them ourselves. Sweet Jesus, I am glad that Pinterest did not exist back then. Homemade crafty cards sound so nice, don't they? Reality constantly clashes with my dream world and it is not pretty.

Thankfully I was blessed with incredibly forgiving children who are willing to love their mother despite all of her short-comings. And I have been given several years to learn one very important lesson which is this: I am not the only Mom who constantly lets her kids down. Nope. It is not just me. For every mom I meet who hears my stories and tries to tell me "All you have to do is X, Y, Z and you will never miss another deadline", I find twenty others who say, "Oh, dear God, yes, Me, too!!" There is nothing like finding a kindred spirit who can truly relate. But don't get me wrong. I love organized moms. They absolutely rock. And they can make great friends. I have one in particular who helps me keep my act together - and I help her loosen up. It is a win-win.

I no longer dread Valentine's Day parties for my kids. My youngest is now in 5th grade and I have already marked on my calendar that her party is next Friday. AND - I marked on my calendar that we should get her cards and such ready by next Wednesday. Even better - I have learned the habit of actually looking at said calendar on a daily basis. Oh, yes, give me twenty years or so and I can master almost anything.

You don't suppose my grandkids (who aren't even born yet) are going to want Valentine's cards from their Grandmother? Crap. I better find someone's kid to start practicing on now.

'Til Next Time.
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