Mama Madison: Like!

What Valentine's Day is all about for kids

I don't love you, but I like you. I don't like you like that. Let's just be friends. You probably didn't think these romantic relationship kisses of death would be wiggling their way into a post about Valentines Day, right? But I think these time tested break up lines pretty much sum up what February 14 has morphed in to for my family.

While I am sure there are some parents out there who probably try to keep the ideal of courtly love alive with roses, chocolate and cards that sing "Endless Love," the reason I "heart" Valentine's Day is because it offers the perfect opportunity for my kids to offer a gesture of kindness"an token of "like""to all the kids in their class.

Sure, this somewhat faux-holiday can be painful, especially for the non-craftsy parent with an equally glue stick-challenged child. My oldest son was never the type to cut and paste fancy paper hearts. He had absolutely no desire to go the homemade greeting route; all of our Valentine's Day preparations began in aisle 4 at Walgreens. The closest he may have gotten to artistry on V-Day was picking out Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles themed cards; with names like Leonardo and Michelangelo one could argue he was getting a lesson in renaissance painting. Even tougher was getting him to painstakingly hand address each card to his 13 kindergarten classmates. Thank goodness he went to school in the days of SAGE funding at Franklin Elementary --I don't know how I would have dealt with the larger class sizes in place today. If you add in the daylong Conversation Heart sugar rush, I'm sometimes surprised I have any love left for the holiday at all.

But candy rants aside; there is something sweet, figuratively as well as literally, about in-school Valentine's Day celebrations. I completely enjoy watching my two younger, more artistically inclined kids create masterpieces out of red and white construction paper; they are both DaVincis with doilies. But more importantly, this holiday encourages my kids to positively acknowledge every child in his or her class, regardless of the ins and outs of their daily relationship. The rules of the Valentine's Day game are clearly laid out: you give a card to everyone; you receive a card from everyone. Each and every name on the photocopied class list gets a folded over ode to friendship even if, they never have, and unlikely will, be invited over for a playdate. I've spent way too much time this past year negotiating third-grade-girl politics to have any patience left for exclusion. With birthday parties and playdates, someone is always left out. With Valentines, the playing field is leveled.

We all want to be liked, accepted, and appreciated. And with the advent of Facebook, it's not like the idea of friendship hasn't been significantly broadened. So who really cares if the "voice" in the card might be that of SpongeBob or Hello Kitty"it still feels good to hear them say Let's Be Friends"if only for the day.

How does your family honor February 14? Are you store bought or homemade? Is it a holiday about love, or is more about the like?

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