Back then, Valentine's Day was a stark reminder of all my failings in love, and all of my deficiencies as someone who is embarrassed to the point of mortification by romance; contemptuous of Hallmark; allergic to flowers; ethically opposed to most jewelry; and prone to eating chocolate alone while crying in bed.
Don't worry. I still hate Valentine's Day. But today, it's a stark reminder of all my failings as a parent.
Each year, my kids have to make Valentines for their classmates, and each year, one or both of them experiences some degree of profound failure and humiliation, thanks exclusively to me.
This year was Isaac's turn.
Isaac's pre-school has an absolutely adorable and lovely Valentine's Day Tea each year, where the children all make hand-made Valentines for their classmates at home. The parents come in, and the children serve the parents cookies and tea, sing them a song about love, and show them their work. In other words, the level of cuteness and sweetness approaches fatal. But as I note above, the primary fatality this year was my pride, my child's psyche, and also a goldfish, as I will explain.
Naturally, being a hot mess, I did the absolute least amount possible and waited until the absolute last minute to produce this year's Valentines. The Valentine pop-up sweatshop opened at 7:00 p.m. last night at our kitchen table, the second I got home from having a cucumber margarita with three co-workers at a local bar.
I grabbed a stack of pink construction paper and began drawing hearts in pencil. "But I'm supposed to be doing this, Mom!" Isaac protested. "We don't have time to screw around, sweetie," I told him. "Just start cutting." "OK, Mommy," he said meekly, and began to slowly and torturously cut out each individual heart. I gently pried the scissors from him and started sawing away in bulk like I was a minimum-wage factory worker being paid by the heart.
"Honey, we gotta move this along. Seriously now." (See also prior post from October titled, "I Suck Ass at Crafts.")
I then glanced at my iPhone for the snapshot of the school attendance sign-in sheet, in order to deduce each child's name so I could write it on the heart. "How about I write the kids' names, and you write your name, sweetie?" I suggested. "OK, mommy," Isaac smiled brightly, and began to very, VERY slowly write each letter out on each heart. I ... S ... A ... A ...
"OK, honey, that's great. Let me help you," I said, gently prying the pencil away. "But, Mommy ..."
"Oh God. We really don't have time for this honey. It's almost bedtime, and Mommy waited too long. Mommy was really bad about Valentines this year and really messed up. Sorry!" Isaac's lip began to quiver. "Oh fine," I sighed. "Just cut these out." I shoved some more pink paper across the table and tried to reassure him when his hearts came out looking like jacked-up trapezoids.
At 7:30 p.m., I put all thirty hearts/trapezoids with the kids' misspelled names scribbled on them, placed them in random order into a plastic bag from Hudson News, and stuck the bag in an out-of-the-way place where I was sure to remember it the following morning.
Except--spoiler alert!--I forgot the bag! I got all the way to Isaac's school, where I was supposed to help distribute the Valentines in little alphabetized paper bags with each child's name on them. Not having the Valentines though, that task was impossible. So Geoff had to go all the way back home and get the stupid bag while I went to work and frantically zipped out 850 overdue emails.
An hour later, I was back at Isaac's school for the party. But because I'd failed to put the Valentines in order, instead of Isaac showing us his work and the other stuff in his classroom, Geoff and I had to take shifts squinting at the scribbles on both the Valentines and the bags, and putting each child's Valentine in the correct bag, which took almost the entire time. And I was still far from confident that I had them all right. I could see Geoff's silent disapproval from across the room. I could almost hear him saying, "This was the ONLY thing you had to do ... the ONLY thing ..."
All was not lost, however, because Isaac seemed happy! He took my coat and hung it up, sat on my lap and drank cocoa, and sang and served us cookies with a smile on his face. I was relieved that he did not appear permanently scarred by what had been the close-to-epic Valentine's Day Tea fail of 2015. (And trust me, the competition from prior years was already FIERCE).
"Why don't you show me some of your work honey? Or one of your activities?" I asked him enthusiastically. "OK Mommy, I want to show you a sad activity."
Uh-oh. Perhaps I had congratulated myself too soon.
Isaac took my hand and led me over to where Feathers, the classroom goldfish, lay dead behind a rock in his tank. "Look. Feathers died, Mommy."
"Wow, that IS a sad activity, honey!" I told him.
Until next year, Saint Valentine. Until next year.