Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day Scrooge in Recovery


I confess, I used to be a Valentine’s Day Scrooge. I didn’t care much about the holiday one way or the other until my sophomore year of college. That year, in the throes of a painful romantic break-up, I began to disdain the holiday.  I called it a made up holiday, an excuse for the purveyors of cards, flowers, candy and jewelry to pressure poor hard-working people into spending more money.  Yes, I know about St. Valentine the Christian Matyr, but let’s be honest. This is not a religious holiday. I also protested it’s exclusionary nature, which of course was particularly bitter for me that year. It was very painful to see my paired friends exchanging cards, trinkets and flowers when I was still nursing a broken heart. However, the next year, when I was in a loving relationship which eventually evolved into marriage and parenthood, I still felt profoundly skeptical about the holiday. I didn’t like the commercialism and I didn’t like the idea of making anyone else feel sad and lonely. My husband and I have made a pact of not exchanging cards, flowers or gifts on Valentine’s day (much to his relief, I am sure) that we have kept for 17 years and counting now.

However, I have not been able to exclude Valentine’s Day from my life. My mother and father, loving parents that they are, always send me cards. It’s hard to feel grumpy about a sappy card from your dad saying how special you are to him or a sweet one from your mother telling you what a great daughter you are. My dad sends chocolates too, good ones, and I just don’t have the willpower to refrain from eating them. Also, one of my dear friends has a birthday on Valentine’s Day and so I really can’t dislike 14 February, because she is an awfully good friend and I feel good about the day she was born.

Having a daughter was probably the final nail in the coffin of my Valentine’s Day scorn. She made a Valentine hat in her daycare today. It’s just too adorable. My parents (of course) also send cards to my daughter because they love being grandparents. My mom also usually sends her a little gift - this year an adorable stuffed elephant. Which got me thinking this year. As a parent who is struggling to walk the straight and narrow with not buying too many toys and not spoiling my child with too many things, any legitimate opportunity to buy her a toy is not to be scorned. I love giving my daughter things and the only reason I don’t give her new toys every week is that I know it wouldn’t actually be good for her to receive them. Gifts on a holiday, however, are acceptable. I couldn’t resist. I bought her a little Valentine gift this year. I will probably get her a card and a small gift next year too, because it is just too much fun to give her things. I will continue the ban on gifts between my husband and I though, since we don’t need more things and buying gifts tends to cause stress for both of us.

One idea which is helping my recovery from my Valentine’s Day scroogism is the concept of turning the holiday into “Generosity Day.” I heard about it via a newsletter I received and read the blog post here http://www.newdream.org/blog/happy-generosity-day-2013 . The idea is to take the holiday back from all the commercialism and instead make it a celebration of human kindness and connection. That is an idea I can get behind! So, from a recovering Valentine’s Day Scrooge, I wish you and yours a Happy Valentine’s/Generosity Day 2013.