Thursday, February 4, 2010
Back in the day, there was no rule that everyone had to give everyone a Valentine. Getting a Valentine from someone actually meant something -- especially since most of the time, they were homemade with a prodigious amount of paste and doilies. When the shy boy in the back row of the classroom shuffled over to your desk and gave you a Valentine... it was special.
I understand why schools now have rules that include everyone -- of course! How terrible to be the kid who only gets two Valentines while the other kids' boxes are overflowing. Of course. But, as a result, Valentines just aren't special anymore. The majority are just pieces of shiny paper emblazoned with a licensed character, with maybe a lollipop or a chocolate heart taped on. Sometimes the kids don't even write the names on them. And it seems to me that when it gets to that point, why bother? I mean, it's kind of a silly "holiday" anyway, so why just go through the motions in such a meaningless way? It seems like kind of a waste.
Except, I was thinking... what if there was a way to make Valentines special again? What if they actually carried some meaning? What if you could take this opportunity with your children to reflect on friendship? This year, we're making a concerted effort to make the most of Valentines.
My five-year-old goes to preschool three days a week, in a class of about 20 children. So we are sitting down and, one by one, talking about what she likes about each friend. I created a template, and she is filling in each one thoughtfully. For each Valentine, she has to write what she likes about that friend. I've given her total freedom on this; it could be anything from "I like playing with you," to "I like your red shoes." But the point is to notice that every child in the class has some quality that she admires and appreciates, even the ones she's not as close to. It has been an incredible exercise, and has given her a chance to think about the value other people bring into her life in a specific and meaningful way.
Each Valentine has a collage made of various pink and red strips, flowers, anything remotely "Valentine-y" on one side, and the message on the other. And since part of the message is already printed, the part she has to write out herself is brief enough to be within reach for a five-year-old. We had a snow day yesterday, and really made some progress on these. Of course, the best part was how the teenager wandered in to "help," and ended up making a stack of her own Valentines using the same template.
If you like this idea, feel free to download the template here. There are two on each page to save paper. Let's put some meaning back into this tired, commercial-infested holiday!