It’s Valentine’s Day. The kids went off to school in exceptionally good moods. My son, needing something to cart his anticipated Valentine’s Day cards home in, grabbed a paper grocery bag. I said, “That’s really big.” He said the cards might spill out of something smaller.
Unlike three years ago.
Their school’s policy has been that kids may deliver cards to their classmates only if they have one for every member of the class. The teachers often make it easier on the students by providing a class list. When my son was in second grade, his teacher sent one home, and my son wrote out all of his cards.
That Valentine’s Day, I picked my kids up from school, rather than them taking the bus. When I greeted them in the front office, my son seemed quieter than usual. I asked him how his class party was, and he said meekly, “Okay.” I asked him what was wrong.
He said that he spent the party watching all of his classmates—18 of them—get and open 18 cards. He, however, only received six.
I thought a bunch must have been misplaced. He, his little sister and I all walked back to his classroom to find his teacher still there. After I told her his experience, she was horrified and tried to figure out what had happened. She pulled out the list she had distributed to the class; my son’s name was not on it. He hadn’t noticed the omission when he used the list to address his cards.
Suddenly feeling better about himself, my son was happy to realize that some students remembered him on their own, not needing a prompt from the list. The teacher—a wonderful woman whom my son adored, as did my daughter when she had her two years later—apologized profusely, and then reached into her canvas bag to get the leftovers from the candy she’d brought in for her class. She gave it all—and there was a lot of it—to my son. A rotten afternoon suddenly became a cause for celebration.
Until I had kids, I’d never liked Valentine’s Day much. A contrived Hallmark holiday, I’d say, forcing perhaps insincere declarations of love and devotion. Now that I’m a mom, I’ve slowly embraced the day for the joy it brings to children. Their dad and I give them cards, make them extra-nice breakfasts and dinners, and give them little gifts.
Today, when they get off the bus, I’ll hold my breath, hoping that their bags are filled with cards. But no matter what happens in the classroom, here at home we do all that we can to make sure they never, for even one moment, forget just how much they are cherished.