“Valentine was a what?!?” 

This is a quote from this morning’s breakfast. I was cramming two bags of “Cars” (the movie) Valentine’s Day cards into my youngest son’s backpack. He is in fifth grade and bringing cheapy drugstore cards with pencils attached for both his “big” (general ed) class and his “small” (special education) class.

The first year my oldest son was in preschool, I was that mother—the one who thought store-bought cards were so tacky and silly. Why not just make them with your child? Some construction paper and markers are all you need for lovely cards. As the narrator would say, famous last words.

I did that exactly once. And like so many “I would never” or “Why on earth would you?” comments, I have learned my lesson. I like to say ironically, “Oh, look how the mighty have fallen,” as I load pre-made chocolate milk into my grocery cart, or cook three different dinners for my three children, or look the other way at another day full of screens.

My daughter was asking about Valentine, somehow hearing he was a saint for the first time. So not exactly a Jewish holiday we are celebrating here, people. And while I would never let our family “do” Christmas or Easter, for some reason, Halloween and Valentine’s Day seem fine to me. I have been trying all day to figure out why. Is it because I associate Christmas and Easter with church, while Halloween and Valentine’s Day are only secular? Because we have Hanukkah and Passover to compete with the first two but nothing for the other two? Because I like fun-size chocolate but not Peeps?

Her follow-up comment was along the lines of, “Good, we won’t have to do anything silly about Valentine’s at Hebrew school this afternoon.” I had many questions to that comment, but let us just say that breakfast time on a school day is not a good time to talk about anything at our house.

This year is the end of the elementary school “bring one for everyone in the class” Valentine card exchange era and my last packs of tacky drugstore cards. I figure it has been 12 years since my first year of this. Twelve years, many of them doing three kids’ classes—that’s a lot of flimsy movie-themed cards. That preschooler is now an eighth-grader and my youngest child will be done with elementary school this June.

I assume at some point soon, some or all of my kids will have other sorts of Valentine’s drama that do not involve 16 cards for $2.99, a bunch of cruddy pencils that will never sharpen and a class list. And um, who the heck has 16 kids in their class? If my kids went to a school fancy enough for that class size, I am pretty sure my full-time staff would be hand-making the cards.

At Target, they were already shelving the Easter candy this morning, so stay tuned for my annual complaints about how matzoh is no match for Cadbury mini eggs and life is not fair.

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