Valentine's Day

This week was our first Valentine's Day with kids in preschool, and when the lists came home with all the students' names on it for "optional" valentines, I knew we were in for it. Of course they're not really optional...who wants their kid to be the only one who shows up empty handed? Although, they are 2 and 3 years old, so it's not like any of the kids would notice if they are one valentine short of the class total; but the teachers would...

A few days before the big due date, I ran into some parents with similarly aged kids in a different preschool. They explained how their daughter's class had gone all out with valentines, spending lots of money and leaving the homemade crafts they had made at the bottom of the barrel. "And Christmas presents for teachers..." they lamented, "Forget it! Parents were spending $20-$30 on gifts!" My eyes got wide as I gazed into the future of pressured giving. Not that I don't want to be generous with my kids' teachers (I'm married to a teacher after all), but there has to be a line when you have 3-4 teachers, right?

I'm not trying to be stingy. I think to me the whole problem with all of it is that these are simply societal pressures, which I'm not sure we're meant to adhere to. This isn't the first time we've experienced this obviously; even as parents, you're told what to do with your child before he or she is born. You then spend the next three or four years learning to ignore those pressures, and just when you start to get a hang of it, your kid goes to school and a whole new set show up. Dance lessons, uniforms, instruments, private coaches...I foresee a future of heavy spending on things that don't really matter, mostly to keep my kids competitive with their peers; to keep them from being the "weird kid."

A cacophony of pink.

But what's wrong with that? I think weird kids change the world in ways normal ones don't, and maybe can't. In hindsight, our massive tendencies to be normal hinder us from embracing what makes us special, and even though I can see how little "normal" actually mattered in middle school, as an adult I still struggle with it. I'm growing of course -- I mean, I'm a stay-at-home dad in the South who still skateboards and tries to write stuff for a living; how could I not get good at being different? But it still a pushing against the tides of culture and will inevitably be difficult at times.

I handed the Valentine's Day project over to my wife, who is infinitely more crafty than me. (Though I did try my hand at a couple valentines...and they were terrible compared to hers!) She showed up with beautiful handmade valentines that were fabulously received. It did cost a little more money than I would have liked to spend on something that will likely be thrown away before the week's end, but I was proud to not have a generic, store-bought superhero or Disney character valentine with a taped on lollipop (no judgement if that's what you made).

But what I wonder is, how long can we sustain homemade (valentines, Halloween costumes, toys) before the kids want something more? Something mainstream? I guess all I can really do is try to foster a fun home of creativity and hope it catches on. If not, we'll just take Frozen sneakers and Nintendo whatevers out of their college fund to teach them a lesson...

(I'm kidding.)