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.