Sunday, February 13, 2011

Will You Be My Valentine?

Valentine Tomorrow is the big V-day.  I’ve got two pre-schoolers and although there hasn’t been a specific mandate for each child to give a valentine to each kid in the class, we have “been reminded how many children are in each class and to not address envelopes for ease of delivery”.  In other words, each kid gets one.  That’s fine with me.  I have babies, all the kids in the classes seem really nice and I’m the one filling out the valentine’s cards.  However, things aren’t always so clear.  My neighbor has kept me in the loop of an ongoing saga between her kindergarten daughter, who attends the local elementary, and at least one other girl in her class.  This other little girl is just plain mean—sporadically.  The added problem is there aren’t very many girls in the class…Blame the randomness of the local births, I guess.  But, the Kindergarten class is about 85% male.  It’s not like there are that many girls to hang with.  So, this past Friday the mother tells me her daughter is busy making valentines, totally homemade, and I ask about the “mean girl” who recently refused to sit with her because she said her lunch stunk.  My friend said everyone has to give everyone a valentine.  Hmmm.  So, although I don’t have a dog in that specific fight, I did get a momentary flashback to a post I wrote exactly two years ago for the now closed LA Moms Blog.  It certainly sparked quite a few comments on the original post.  So, herewith, let’s revisit?

 Will You Be My Valentine was originally posted on the Los Angeles Moms Blog, February 14, 2009

My two year old son is in preschool and I was informed this week that the school has a policy for Valentine's Day.  If you want to bring in valentines, you must have one for each kid in the class.  Well, fine.  the kids are all between 2-2.5 and pretty much illiterate at this stage.  Mom or Dad would be the one to be filling them out.  Let me add that I have no problem with this policy for preschool.

I was curious about this practice extending to elementary school and posted the question in one of my Los Angeles mommy forums.  The responses were completely unanimous that valentines for each child in the class was required at a wide range of public and private schools.  It was interesting to get some extra comments regarding my question.  For example: "How would you feel if you were left out.", "Valentines are inexpensive.", "It teaches kids to be kind."  Ok, fine.  I didn't say why I was asking.  But some people seemed to think I was either mean or cheap, or both?

As I was hunched over at my desk scrawling out my son's valentines the other night, I began to reflect on the ghosts of Valentines Days past.  Let me break off on a slight tangent here: I have a freakishly good memory, so good in fact, that I often remember things about people that they don't remember about themselves.  That has led to more than one awkward exchange.  So I try to use the power for more useful things, like being a contestant on Jeopardy!  But, back to my point, I remember quite a bit about my childhood.  There were two boys named Kevin in my first grade class, Kevin M. and Kevin S.  Kevin S. was a nice kid.  Kevin M. was a punk.  He was not nice to me and many others in the class.  I did not care for Kevin M.'s company.  He had friends and I had friends, we just didn't move in the same circles.  This was back in the 70's when we didn't wear seat belts and didn't have so many rules. 

I have a particular memory from my first grade Valentines Day.  We were seated in a circle and our teacher, Mr. L'Amour (yes, my first grade teacher was a man and for those who speak French and see the irony, that was his real name) was distributing the valentines.  I still pretty much have the same penmanship I had in first grade, and even then, it wasn't very good.  I had written "Kevin S." on my valentine for him.  But, it came out looking like "Kevins" and Mr. L'Amour apparently made a game day decision to pass my valentine to Kevin M.  I saw the whole thing happen and then the theme music from the Bionic Woman began to play in my head.  I launched myself in my corduroy leisure suit across the circle and took the misrouted valentine from Kevin M's pile.  I tucked it under my arm, ran to Kevin S's location and completed the circuit assuming my Indian Style seated position mid-air and landed back in my spot next to my friend Kristen.  No-way-Jose-was-that-punk-who-had-made-my-life-miserable-going-to-get-my-valentine.  I present my case for not requiring valentines be given to every kid in the class.  My 6 1/2 year old self made that choice.  She had that choice.

It appears that nowadays all we care about is everyone being equal.  Well, folks, we aren't all equal.  I would like my kids to learn that sooner rather than later.  If you are a jerk, don't expect to get a valentine from the people to whom you are a jerk.  If your team doesn't win, you don't deserve a trophy.  It seems to me that we are successfully raising a nation of wimps who get everything, expect that they will get everything and believe that no matter how you behave and how you treat people, you will get a prize.  Oh, and you will get that prize TODAY because you don't need to save up or work for it.

An original post for the Los Angeles Moms BlogWhen Elizabeth isn't reminiscing about life in the 1970's, she can be found over on her personal blog Traded My BMW for a Minivan.

Comments (original comments from the LA Moms Blog post)

Elise Crane Derby said...

I totally get what you're saying, but what about the dorks? I remember (which is a miracle, cause I remember almost nothing) a few kids in school who basically had no friends, due to extreme social akwardness. They weren't jerks. Under your valentine distribution plan they wouldn't get any valentines either. So maybe not everyone should get one but you really gotta go case by case and know the dynamic.
Just my two cents.

Reply February 14, 2009 at 09:25 AM

Laura Clark said...

Yeah, I hear what you're saying, too. I think it's pretty condescending to give everyone trophies when something is inherently competitive, like sports. But, like Elise said, when it comes to valentines, what about the kids who just don't have any friends? Holidays shouldn't be competitive, but they can easily turn into a sport of who got the most or who didn't get any. Kids can be cruel. Maybe there's a compromise. "Secret Valentine" like "Secret Santa"? ... Actually, that could be tricky, too.

Reply February 14, 2009 at 07:14 PM

PlaygroundforParents said...

Darlin', you got off easy. My kid's school didn't just require Valentine's for her class, they required cards for the ENTIRE 1st grade. As in THREE 1st grade classes. Yep. Do the math: 20 students per class x 3 classes = 60 stinkin' Valentine cards. Whether my kid likes you or not. More importantly, whether I like you or not. All or none.

Reply February 14, 2009 at 08:57 PM

Lexi said...

I disagree with everyone getting a trophy and all that. It breeds mediocrity. Good post Elizabeth.

Reply February 15, 2009 at 08:34 AM

Florinda said...

I was in grade school in the '70's too, and I remember some kids getting more valentines than others; I was one of the ones who got fewer. We just accepted that this was the way things were, like it or not. - some people are more popular than others, and always will be, even when we get older.

I think that unless my child really WANTED to give a valentine to everyone in his or her class, if the school requires "all or none," my preference would be "none." (Luckily, I'm almost past this point anyway, with the youngest in third grade.)

Thanks for saying this, Elizabeth - you're not alone.

Reply February 15, 2009 at 09:59 AM

Emily R said...

I don't think I actually responded to that post, but I do think that everyone ought to get a valentine if you are handing them out in school. If a two-year-old or a six-year-old is behaving that badly, I suspect that excluding him from the Valentines is probably not going to fix the behavior. Plus, I've seen exclusion be a way that moms go about excluding other mothers, and it just ends up hurting the kids.

At any rate, your post to the listserv reminded me why I am so happy to be in a preschool where there is no celebration of this particular holiday!

Reply February 15, 2009 at 08:41 PM

Teresa DeGagne said...

Having a third grader and a kindergartner, I have no problem providing 20 Valentines for each...I see the joy they have going through their bags. 20 Valentines are a treasure trove to them. There is plenty of disparity provided in elementary school (even preschool) with who's invited to birthday parties. The kids, even at that early age, can start questioning "why not me?" "why doesn't he/she like me?" While I admit to believing there is too much PC and "fairness", there is also distinction provided through rewarding academics and acknowledging other achievements in school. Personalities emerge and the kids "class" everyone on their own regardless of whether a Valentine is given.

Reply February 17, 2009 at 06:45 AM

Yvonne Condes said...

I also have a problem with every kid getting a trophy and "good jobs" rewarded for not doing much of anything, but the valentine thing is hard. I know my 5-year-old was only concerned with giving a card to his best school friend, but we gave one to everyone. If he hadn't gotten one from that boy, I'm sure he would have been devastated. And who needs that for some silly, hallmark holiday?

Reply February 17, 2009 at 10:16 PM

Kim said...

I have an issue with the trophy thing. I remember when they had to be earned--like by winning a championship game or at least making it into the finals. While I do belief in life that just showing up is half the battle, there's no need to get a trophy for that.

It hurts to see your own kids get hurt, picked on or left out. At the same time, these lessons will hurt a lot more if they don't learn them until adulthood.

Reply February 19, 2009 at 10:52 AM

joanne said...

i'm totally late in commenting on your post and you don't even know me...i stumbled across your blog and realized you and i are on the same LA moms board and you once recommended a fab mechanic to me that was wonderful! in any event, i am completely on your page with the valentine's business. i totally get it in preschool but beyond that, i want to teach my children to be loving and kind but not to be doormats and not to think that all children are equal because they are not. also agree that learning that earlier rather than later is not such a bad thing.

Reply April 15, 2009 at 08:06 PM

1 comment:

allthethingswedontsay said...

I soooo agree. There has to be consequences for your actions. I can see how giving Valentines to everyone circumvents the "most popular girl/boy in the class" let down but it also cheapens it to the point where it has no meaning. I know that I would be heartbroken if my kid came home crying or upset because she didn't get that many Valentines but I would take it as a learning experience and explain to her why it doesn't matter, how 1 Valentine can be more meaningful than many, etc. But, I guess that's just me.