I started hating Valentine’s Day in the fourth grade.
That was the year I was madly in love with Steven Goldberg*. He was super cute,with silky brown hair and big brown eyes that looked out from behind his square ’70s glasses. He was also very smart. The smart always sealed the deal for me. Steven’s desk was perpendicular to mine, in our little group of desks. Not only did I get to see him at school, but he was also in my Hebrew school class so I got to see him after school and Saturdays in temple. Steven was extremely shy. Painfully shy. I had no idea if he liked one particular girl, so I figured I had as good of a chance as anyone to capture his heart.
In my 4th grade brain, I loved him.
Valentine’s Day was coming up, and I decided to finally let Steven know how I felt about him. I went to the store and got an oversized Valentine’s Day card. I was going to make this grand gesture and I couldn’t wait. I brazenly marched into class with the giant card. While he was away from his desk, I carefully placed it on top. Then I nervously waited.
I watched Steven open the card. I saw his eyes scan the card and my declaration of love and he immediately started turning bright red, almost purple. At that very moment, I realized I had made a huge mistake. He clearly didn’t feel the same way and now my “I love you” was out to him and I couldn’t take it back. I was mortified. He basically acted like nothing ever happened. It was a rough lesson in love. I officially hated Valentine’s Day.
I hated watching other girls with boyfriends get flowers and chocolate. I hated that Valentine’s Day never lived up to its ridiculous Hallmark expectations. I hated the color red and not being able to get a restaurant reservation for a regular-priced meal. For years, it was a day that I dreaded and was thrilled when it was over.
But many, many years later, I came to a very simple conclusion. Valentine’s Day does not have to be about romantic love. You can celebrate it with and however you damn well please. I decided I was going to celebrate it with my daughter and her friends. And just like that, my whole attitude changed.
Each year on Valentine’s Day, we host a kid-themed party in our house. We decorate and do crafts and play games and dance and eat fun foods. It’s one of my favorite times with my daughter and I love creating these memories with her. I now embrace this holiday, not because Hallmark is telling me to, but because my daughter loves it and she has made me love it. Seeing this holiday through her eyes has changed the way I see Valentine’s Day—and a little piece of myself.
*Name has been changed