Monday, February 14, 2011

Why I Celebrate Valentine's Day

In case you hadn’t noticed the explosion of red hearts, teddy bears, and chocolate that appeared at every grocery store, drugstore and mall starting approximately one hour after Christmas, today is Valentine’s Day. I know plenty of people, including my husband, who consider this to be a silly holiday, and I don’t entirely disagree. Nothing seems to bring out the bitterness in people, even those in loving relationships, more than Valentine’s Day. Although I’ve certainly heard my share of gripes about Christmas, New Year’s, Mother’s Day, and any other day with “Day” after it, Valentine’s Day seems to be the worst. Complainers assert that it is an invented Hallmark holiday, forcing romance with over-priced flowers and dinner at over-crowded restaurants. Isn’t it more important to let your loved ones know how you feel about them all the time, not just on one day in February? My husband, true to these convictions, does actually bring me the occasional bouquet of flowers for no special reason.

But I like holidays, the way they mark the passing of the year and give us reasons to celebrate even when there may not be any real occasion. And now, as a parent to young children, it is fun to see holidays through new eyes. At least I think it will be someday. My three year old autistic son doesn’t seem to understand or show much interest in holidays, and my one year old daughter is almost, but not quite, old enough to really get it.

Still, I buy the cards, dress the kids (and myself) up in holiday appropriate clothes, and help them celebrate the day. I don’t wear a teddy bear sweater or anything, but I may wear a red shirt or pink shoes. At my son’s school, the kids exchange valentines, and practice delivering the cards by matching pictures on the envelopes to the labels on special valentine holders they made. I enjoyed picking out and assembling the goody bags I made for the kids in his preschool class, all on the autism spectrum. The bag included a little heart valentine and small jar of bubbles, since special diets and allergies make baked treats and candy taboo. On Friday, my daughter (neurotypical, or, as I recently heard, “nypical”) received a bag of valentines at our Parent and Toddler class, including a couple of chocolate hearts that I have to assume were meant for me.

In all seriousness, I think it is important to expose all kids, but especially kids on the spectrum, to these things that people do, no matter how silly. I have no idea how much my son understands of these little rituals, but a big part of my job as his parent is to teach him how the world works. My daughter seems to just pick this stuff up by osmosis, absorbing knowledge as we go about our days, always seeming to understand what’s up. But my son needs more coaching. And honestly I can’t feel too bad about a holiday that celebrates how much I love my family, lets me give fun cards to the kids, and quite literally wear my heart on my sleeve.

And my husband usually comes through with those over-priced flowers anyway.

Jen also writes at her personal blog, Anybody Want A Peanut? You can follow her on twitter @wantapeanut.


  1. I love you*, but I'm going to side with your husband on this one. It's a silly holiday.
    (*but you feel loved now, right?:))

  2. Excellent post
    I feel the same as you
    Happy Valentines day

  3. I make sure to wear grey for Valentine's Day, but I do buy myself flowers.

  4. I agree with you. When you remove heighten expectations and just focus on the fun of it it's a great holiday! I love surprising my kids with goodies and dressing up in red and pink, and when I taught prek I loved the parties and cards.

  5. Awww, you make me almost like today.

  6. I could take or leave the day but once my daughter is a bit older I'm positive I'll love it

  7. I'm not a big fan of Valentines Day but I see your point. For me it is overwhelming. Too many groupies, fans, and star struck women vying for my affection.

  8. You are absolutely right about exposing our kids to these rituals.
    I think that some adults get silly about it: getting overwrought about WHAT they get for Valentine's Day, and getting angry if the gesture isn't romantic enough. Food, flowers and candy is all overpriced and every restaurant is crowded.
    But I think V-day is a great holiday for kids. One of my favorite things about it: no pressure. No relatives are going to turn up expecting a certain reaction. If your kid doesn't want to participate at all, no one really minds. And if he does really enjoy it -- like Billy did this year (hooray!) -- so much the better.
    I think you're right that these little holiday traditions are another chance for them to practice connecting socially. I'm going to share your blog post with MY husband -- who absolutely does not understand why I spent so much time assembling treat bags and hand-made foam valentines :-)

  9. My dirty little secret is that I love these holidays too. Unlike you, I DID wear my teddy bear sweatshirt yesterday. I think NT's should be called nipples.

  10. I'm not that much into Valentine's Day myself but I think next year I will fuss a bit just to cue my kid! Thanks for the idea.