Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Making Valentines: a cautionary tale

Every year, I take the kids to Rite Aid or Duane Reade and buy them a box of brand character valentines. And every year, I feel guilty about it when they come home with those half a dozen handmade, homemade Valentines from kids with parents going for extra credit. This year, I prepared myself for the take-the-easy-route-and-feel-guilt-afterwards strategy that works so well for our family, but I encountered a glitch.

The stores were sold out of valentines. I'd waited too long.

I checked our local neighborhood toy store which did have some boxes in stock, but only the non-branded-characters-kind which are very nice but cost a stinking dollar each valentine. Our budget just can't afford that level of ease AND classiness.

In this way, I was forced to take the hard-route-but-no-guilt-added path. I don't recommend it. It kind of kills the joy of Valentine's Day, in the same way making homemade stockings for the kids killed the fun of Christmas last year. I will remind you, too, of the Pinata-Making-Debacle. I'm not a crafty person and neither are my kids. We are also all absolutely devoid of patience. This means we should NEVER undertake mass craft projects.

I started with Seconda. She was totally not into the idea of making valentines for anyone, until I reminded her that she might receive some, with candy inside, in return. Then she was willing to expend the effort. The kid is very pragmatic, and all about "what can YOU do for ME?" and I leverage that self-interest to make her do things that will make it appear as though she is magnanimous. In this way, perhaps she will inadvertently become genuinely generous. And people will think well of her. Worth a shot.

Since I hadn't bothered to prepare for this craft odyssey, I didn't have any construction paper but I did have a large roll of butcher paper we bought from our last Ikea spree so I cut that into little rectangles. I got out the mammoth stack of stickers left over from the last birthday party and told her all she had to do was stick some stickers on each piece of paper and maybe draw a heart or two, then sign her name. In other words, bye expectations were managed from the get-go. I didn't even BOTHER asking if she could write the kids' names since I know enough to know that would only lead to ruin. Even when charged with only putting a sticker or two on 17 pieces of paper, her patience ran out after Valentine number 11. I probably should've just drawn the hearts on myself but I felt like the other parents would judge me for making my kids Valentines for her. And really, that's what directs my parenting decisions -- the speculation about what other parents and teachers will think. So instead. I harassed, cajoled, bribed and nagged Sec about drawing hearts on the remaining valentines until we were yelling at each other.

"I AM SICK OF THESE DUMB VALENTINES!" she shouted, tossing the marker across the room.
"ME TOO!" I shouted back, "And these aren't even my friends! Let's just get it over with please! Then you can watch Scooby Doo."

"UUUUUUUUGH!" she groaned, scribbling a very mean-spirited heart on Th.e butcher block, "THERE! NOW I'M DONE!"

"Is that what you call a HEART?" I tried not to yell, "Fine, OK, Fine, just sign your name."

Similar scribbling followed. By the time we'd finished the last Valentine, all hearts in the room had been thoroughly sucked dry of love and happiness. A real victory.

The next day, it was Primo's turn. Beforehand, I checked Rite Aid AGAIN to see if they'd restocked, feeling shaken from our Valentine Craft Disaster the day before. No dice. But my clever little boy had a GENIUS idea.

Frankly, I think he's cracked the whole Valentine thing wide open.

"I'll just make one Valentine card and you can make 24 copies of it," he said.

The kid's got a good head on his shoulders.

In the end, he decided to make three different Valentine templates, one for the peace-loving kids, one for the rock-n-rollers and one for the rough-n-tumble-zombie-lovers. He wrote "From Primo" on each before we copied them so all he had to do was write each kid's name which involved even LESS work then a store bought Valentine. Went off without a hitch.

Next Valentine's Day, its all about the Xerox machine.