Friday, February 24, 2012

obligatory - Happy *insert new responsibility here* Day!

Valentine Mailboxes.  Oh, the elementary school expectations churned high in my jealous, greedy, sometimes kinda nasty little head at the age of 5-11ish when it came time to decorate a Valentine Mailbox.  I wanted mine to the best.  It wasn't: at least in today's memory, I wasn't the kind of kid nor did I have the kind of mom who could spend many patient hours pasting tiny bits of glitter onto a butchered cardboard box and have it come out looking like a work of art.  Thirty odd years later, though, I *am* strangely the mom who at least has intentions of doing that.  Last year's - my first, kindergarten - was a ladybug - you moved its wings to reveal the opening.  It holds treasures on the 7yr old's desk now.  This year when the email came from the teacher with the list of kids in the class, along came the statement, "we will be making our valentine bags together in class."

Wait, what?  So all of our careful planning for this year's great Valentine Mailbox GLITTER MONSTER (like the one here - not ours) was for naught?!  I was livid.  For about an hour.  Until I remembered sometimes being the kid who forgot to tell her mom about the school valentine's day party until the night before, and who took a construction-papered tissue box with a crayoned name to school the next day.  And then I remembered the kids who never brought things like valentine mailboxes at all.  Whose parents worked two or three jobs, and whose families didn't have the luxury of craft time or materials.  So I felt crappy.  And poured my creative angst into helping my kids make superhero sucker valentines ("You're SUPER" carefully penned in purple crayon).  And asked my daughter with correctly feigned excitement what color of pompoms she had glued to her bag at school.

And that's really what Valentine's Day is about, isn't it?  At least for adults.  No, not superhero Blow-Pops, not handwritten "TO B--- FROM C--- XOXOXO", but feeling crappy.

It was on the radio every day for a month.  I don't know about TV; we gave up cable 4 yrs ago & haven't looked back.  But I'll take a jump and summarize:  "Do you have a Y chromosome?  Have you spent a month's earnings on jewelry or a resort vacation?  No? Then you suck and should be left in the dust." It was on billboards and on the greeting signs outside the hotel I pass on my 8-minute commute.  Even on the 15th of February:  "Forget something?  Get out of the doghouse and into the hot tub!"

Adult men bear the brunt of valentines pain, to be sure.  I would argue, though, that parents otherwise carry a growing burden.  The list of new obligatory holidays weighs heavily on me as my children's social networks have grown this past year.  Some I've embraced as a rite of passage into the realm of elementary school parenthood.  Others chafe my britches.  Most are both. 

Have you been Boo-ed?  What about Elf-ed or Jingled?  Did you make your Leprechaun Trap?  They're cute.  They teach passage of time, neighborliness and give a sense of community.  They're often about surprising friends in a loving way.  They're also a pain in the butt when you arrive home exhausted from swimming lessons at 7:30pm and find not one but TWO new "boo's" on your door and know that (a) the under-8yr-old boo-ers on the block are eagerly watching to see who YOU will then "boo" the next day (a day when you expect to work at least 9 hrs), and (b) you are fresh out of candy, stickers, dollar tree toys and other oddments.  "Would they mind a baggie of craisins?" you wonder.  But then you get the joy of watching your kids sneak stealthily (they think) down the block to ring a doorbell and run gleefully away while shouting over their shoulders, "It's me! It was your FRIEND!"

That said, how much more fun might it be to do something like boo-ing, elfing, jingling, valentining - some random act of kindness - for no prescheduled reason (note the randomness)? Because we love them, because we want the world to be a better place, because it looks like they could use it?  Not because a printout from a graphically-adept mom-blogger's website has a catchy poem about it?  Not because there is an overwhelming national marketing campaign telling us we have to?  And not because if we don't we will ... feel crappy.

So that's what I want to do this year.  I want to abandon the quest for the best Valentine Mailbox, and bring on the Kindness.   

Ask yourself: Have you been kind today? Make kindness your daily modus operandi and change your world. - Annie Lennox.

obligatory - so commonplace as to be a convention, fashion, or clich√©  


  1. Well-said! I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment of Vday, and other prescribed holidays and prescribed "random" acts of kindness... There is so much need in the world, and much of it in your own backyard. Know friends who could use a night out sans children? Offer to watch them. Know a friend or colleague who's getting the hang of a new job? Make intentional time to stop and listen. You don't have to take on the world to show compassion, and impact your world. Thanks for the reminder, DB. ;)

  2. Amen, sister. Speaking of graphically-adept mom-bloggers, your post brought to mind this article:

  3. I ***loooooooove*** Bitch and Bust magazines! "And whenever a commenter pops in to request that the site perhaps investigate the balance of a mother in a two-income household—or, hell, a single mother, even—a polite but deafening silence inevitably results." ... love it.