Valentine’s Day is not a real holiday. Yet it is around this day of the year that we discuss love and romance the most. When I say “we” I mean more of the royal “we” because I know I’m not the one doing the talking. My husband and I don’t treat it as a real holiday. You know what is a real holiday? February 15th when the chocolate is half price. Take that, capitalism.
Regardless of my feelings, as a parent, Valentine’s Day is something I have to pay attention to. And when I say “pay attention to” I mean “deal with” because my attentions would certainly be better spent elsewhere.
I’m not sure why February 14th has such an esteemed place in our public elementary school curriculum – I mean they even have a party. One of only THREE: Halloween, Christmas, and Valentine’s Day. Just as the Good Lord would want. And they get to make a major craft project that will sit on their desks for all to see. Do you know how much little girls love craft projects? And especially one that allows a liberal use of pink and purple? I mean this MUST be an important holiday, right?
Let’s just stop right here for a minute: What of the child who does not like craft projects or the liberal use of pink and purple? What do you suppose those children, who will likely include a large number of boys but also more girls than you know, think of this blessed “holiday”? And once they pass the age of everybody-in-the-class-gets-a-valentine, how might they feel towards it?
Valentine’s Day has become the spokesholiday for romance. If you don’t like Valentine’s Day, there is a good chance you think the idea of “romance” is bunk, too.
Conversely, the children who are so enamored with craft projects and pink and purple have now learned the importance of Valentine’s Day and thus the importance of Romance. Enter Disney Princesses: Someday my prince with come and all that. (FYI: Ariel ran away to chase after a boy and get married when she was 16. You’re welcome.)
Just what are we doing to our children?
Do you know that no one is even exactly sure how Valentine’s Day started? The only fact that is agreed on is that St. Valentine was killed. Did you also know that the date was picked to coincide with a pagan festival called Lupercalia which was a fertility festival? How’s about we include that in the public elementary school curriculum? (“Mommy? What does fertility mean?”)
Maybe I seem bitter. And maybe I was often seen in a t-shirt with the words “LOVE SUCKS” emblazoned across the chest when I was in college. Also, maybe I’m not a huge fan of pink. Surprise.
But that was then and this is now. My life and point of view have changed since then. But last year, when my then first grader told my husband and me that she had a boyfriend, we nearly did a spit-take. I mean, I thought I had shielded her from those ideas by keeping my house virtually Disney-princess free?
But alas, children try to make sense of their worlds and their desire to do that is not going to change.
There are three ways we could have handled this “boyfriend” situation: 1) Encouraged the relationship 2) Discouraged the relationship 3) Just listen to what she has to say about it.
Encouraging the relationship at the first grade level would include comments like “Do you want to give your boyfriend a special valentine card?” or “Are you going to hold his hand?”. Both responses are inappropriate. A first grader does not have a boyfriend with a plan for a long term relationship or with a plan for physical intimacy. A first grader has a boyfriend (or girlfriend) because they’ve identified someone as special for some reason — it could be looks or sense of humor or something else. But the point is, the act in itself is harmless. WE are the ones who taint it.
Discouraging the relationship would consist of “You are too young to have a boyfriend. Don’t talk to him anymore.” I think we all know to which path this could lead. I have no interest in planting the seeds for rebellion this early.
Obviously we chose to listen. Though the word “boyfriend” is quite shocking when it comes from a first grader, once we listened we knew that it didn’t really mean anything (shh – don’t tell her that). The other thing I learned is there are already a lot of influences I am not happy with in my daughter’s peer group…
Who is guilty of perpetuating the need for boyfriend/girlfriend relationships in elementary school children? Well, have you ever asked a young child if he or she has a girlfriend or a boyfriend? So maybe we should blame you. Or our parents. Or our grandparents. Or movies. Or Disney.
Or maybe we should blame… St. Valentine.
No wonder they killed him.