Parenting with the Pastor: And That’s Why I Have Nightmares about Balloons
My Valentine’s Day trauma is from the year 2000. I was 16 years old and we had just moved to Wheat Ridge, CO from Huntsville, TX. I left behind a pretty awesome boyfriend, great friends, and an assured place in the theater department. Needless to say, I was not pleased. We moved in February and Valentine’s Day happened to fall upon my first week at a new school. I was still at the stage of eating lunch in the hallway or the library and apparently at this school there were no rules on stuff in the halls and the kids had way too much money. Everywhere I went there were girls with giant stuffed animals and ridiculous sized balloons. I spent most of the day dodging other people’s happy Valentine’s moments, and I’m not graceful. More often than not, I ended up getting smacked in the face with heart-shaped balloons. It was my worst Valentine’s day ever. It also happened to be the only bad one I ever had.
Before you stop reading, you should know that I was a dorky kid and I did not always have friends on Valentine’s day, let alone boyfriends when I was older. I was not blessed with popularity at any point in my life. It was never a plethora of friends or a romantic relationship that made Valentine’s day special. It was (and still is) my family.
My parents always included my sister and I in Valentine’s day plans. My dad made a beautiful meal for all of us, including a gorgeous table setting and a rose at each plate. There were small boxes of chocolates, and stuffed animals when we were younger. The day was special for all of us. Now that I am grown up and have a family of my own, my husband and I try to do the same for our kids. They get a new book every year, a little box of candy, and a surprise of some kind. I make breakfast for everyone instead of dinner. The focus in previous years have been heart-shaped pink pancakes. It isn’t a huge, over the top Christmas like deal, but it’s a celebration and it makes February 14th something to be excited about.
This year we are going even a little bigger. We’ve been working to make Valentine’s for the people in our neighborhood (the chance of delivery is slightly diminished by the subzero weather in Colorado right now). I got one of those inexpensive tablecloths, the vinyl ones that hold up under kid onslaught, and some other little decorations. The kids and I made mailboxes for the cards they’ll get in the mail. We’re all stuck inside, and our kids are doing school online this year, but we’re going to make it memorable.
The year after we moved to Colorado was one of the hardest years in my young life. Making friends was harder at 16 than it was when I was younger and we moved. Living in Nebraska and Texas didn’t prepare me for Colorado, or a school with a wealthier and clique laden student population. Valentine’s day in 2001, however, was made extra special and extra memorable. My parents knew how hard the year was, so they went all out that day. I had made a few friends, and my parents insisted I bring them to our place for lunch. They set the table earlier that day, made us homemade pizza, and served us with 5 star treatment. If I had a different childhood, I might have found them embarrassing. Luckily, I was pretty comfortable being a dork with my family, and I refused to be embarrassed by their love for me. That hasn’t changed.
That’s what I want for my kids. I want them to know that they always have love here. The world might be cruel occasionally, and Valentine’s day as an adolescent and a teenager might occasionally suck really hard, but they will always be able to look forward to cheesy cards, books, and pink pancake hearts with us. I want them to know they can face a world of strangely sentient and somewhat cruel balloons, and we’ll be here to love them when they come home.