By Nathalie Hardy • Columnist • 

Where is the love?

The mere thought of Valentine’s Day has me seeing red. I’m wondering really, where is the love?

Valentine’s Day has never been a favorite holiday of mine, and not just because a boyfriend broke up with me Valentine’s Day 1996. I’m totally over that. My issue with this so-called holiday is much more current.

For one thing, I’m simply not a fan of the whole candy overload thing. For another, I have kids with allergies and sensitivities to red dye. For all these reasons, this saccharin mid-February affair is the worst of the so-called holidays for me.

Then there’s the fact that celebrating Valentine’s Day at school has gotten completely out of control.

Those of you who don’t have tykes of school age may not think it’s such a big deal. After all, in grade school, isn’t Valentine’s Day about adorable handmade cards tucked into a mailbox fashioned out of paper plates, a stapler and some yarn?

Not any more it’s not. Today’s Cupid is a little more high-maintenance and aggressively homemade.

My first exposure to this modern Valentine’s Day came as a grade school secretary. I saw there that some of the most over-the-top public displays of affection came from parents bearing balloon bouquets, giant teddy bears and bouquets.

They were delivered to class. And the deliveries continued all day long. 

It was so crazy one year the bus barn called to say there was no way the buses were going anywhere with all the balloons blocking the drivers’ visibility.

Several years later, I learned public gestures of love were no longer enough. These days, it’s all about handmade goodies.

The thing is, that means handmade by Mom.

I learned the hard way when Sam came home from pre-school one Valentine’s Day with a bucket of clever, creative homemade things, like heart-shaped crayons.

I saved all our broken crayons over the ensuing year, thinking I could do that, too. I also saved a bin of toilet paper tubes, which could be painted and turned into owls or some such.

In reality, that will never happen.

So there we were on Valentine’s Eve last year, not packaging our homemade craft, but struggling just to get (expletive) Valentine’s cards churned out for 45 little friends. And it soon featured me angrily raising my voice as I tried to get the boys to help.

There wasn’t a lick of love in those tiny cards, which came complete with tattoos. No love at all — not from the boys, who were busy playing while I signed their names, and certainly not from me, who was wondering just what was driving me to do this.

I doubt any of the aforementioned 45 kids cared whether they got yet another Lightning McQueen card, complete with tattoos.

Maybe Sam and Jake would care if they didn’t have anything to bring to the table, when the other kids did. But if that really mattered to them, shouldn’t they be more invested in the process? Shouldn’t they at least be willing to scribble their own names?

As I stuffed the 45 tiny envelopes, I fantasized about rushing to Fred Meyer just before closing time to buy poster board, because “we” had a science fair project due the next day.

That’s not ever going to be me, I promised myself. But to make sure I could keep my word, I had to re-think this part of my self-professed holiday mom self.

This year, I mentioned to the boys that Valentine’s Day was just around the corner, and if we were going to do something, we should get on it. 

The boys decided they want to make their own Valentine’s Day cards. And they didn’t get that idea from my Holiday Mom/Valentine’s Day Pinterest board, either.

For those of you who find joy in getting all clever and crafty, who are able to resist making the kids feel bad for breathing while you’re hand-carving their portraits out of chocolate, I bear you no ill will. In fact, truth be known, I’m a little jealous.

But I’m willing to live in my reality, which right now means I let the kids handle the valentines themselves and leave the elaborate ideas to Pinterest. They can be completed in another lifetime in my alternate reality.

If you have it in you, knock yourself out knitting heart-shaped hats for the whole class. Go for it.

I know my willingness to sweep up glitter for the next millennium doesn’t get me the same kind of Holiday Mom street cred, but I can live with that. Because as I looked at the prototype card Sam was so earnest in crafting, it struck me as so ... well, homemade. It was sweeter than anything that comes in a wrapper at the store.

Looking at him have at it, I couldn’t help but think, there’s no way that little boy is going to grow up to be the kind of guy who dumps his girlfriend on Valentine’s Day. Not that I’m still pining about that, of course.

Contact Nathalie Hardy at

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