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Can’t Buy Me Love

To be honest, I’m not sure of the exact words she used. But I do remember thinking: My daughter is absolutely brilliant. In fact, I may have said something along those lines to the woman standing next to me in Target trying to decide between the Hot Wheels and the Ninja Turtles.

“I want to make my Valentines,” my renaissance child proclaimed as her eyes darted from box to box.

Barbie here. SpongeBob there. Splatters of pink, and splotches of purple, and of course, hearts everywhere. If I’m recalling correctly, this shopping trip was during an Elmo-esque phase in my firstborn’s young life. And the furry red monster was up there on the shelf, too. But it wasn’t about the characters on the cards, or even the multitude of candy for my preschool visionary. She had her mind made up.

So on the way to Ben Franklin we worked on her supply list: construction paper in the traditional Valentine color palette; some fuzzy stickers; a new box of markers; and those little lacy circles. For some reason we couldn’t stop saying the word. “Doily, doily, doily, doily…” we chanted. It was our rallying cheer.

At home, she dedicated a full forty-five minutes to her first installment of Valentine-making. She finished four cards. Sigh! There were at least twenty kids in her class. I unearthed a red gift box from the Christmas clutter, and in it she packed away her class list, her supplies, and her four expertly crafted Valentines. We stashed the box in just the right place. It wasn’t even February yet.

Her commitment was nothing short of inspirational. Some days the red box would come out and only one Valentine would get finished. Other days it wouldn’t come out at all. I had set a schedule for her project – she couldn’t read a calendar after all – but had vowed not to interfere. Even as the days passed I felt compelled to stay out of it.

Then on that most sacred of nights, Valentine’s Eve – when many parents find themselves scrawling away to meet the deadline, she pulled out the red box one final time. Together we counted out enough homemade Valentines for every friend in her class, all of her teachers, the preschool director, Mommy and Daddy, and her little sisters, too.

That evening, after I put the girls to bed and the husband to couch, I found myself at Target with countless other last-minute Valentine’s Day shoppers. How easy it would have been to buy that plush love bunny. Easier still to snag two of those clever tin boxes full of conversation hearts. And I would have gotten at least seven hours of sleep that night had I shelled out ten bucks for those cupid boxer shorts – even though they weren’t really his size.

Instead, on the way home from Target empty-handed, I worked on my supply list. I had Valentines to make.

Nearly a decade has passed since that fateful February when a wonderful family tradition was born of the simple phrase: I want to make my Valentines.

From my true love on Valentine’s Day I have received, among other things, a homemade t-shirt, a heart-shaped cake, a bookmark, and a poem. But my personal favorite will always be the freshly brewed pot of coffee with a pink sticky note affixed to it: Roses are red, violets are blue, I made this coffee (with love) for you! The creativity alone is priceless. As January winds down, and talk turns to school Valentines, the girls and I still make the family trek to Ben Franklin to stock up on foam hearts, fuzzy stickers, and upon occasion, doilies.

Think about it: In the beginning, most of us believe parenting is all about teaching, shaping, and guiding our children. But if we just listen, we’re the ones who can learn – especially when it comes to important matters of the heart. Like making Valentines.

Karen Schwartzkopf has her dream job as managing editor of RFM. Wife, mother, arts and sports lover, she lives and works in the West End with her family, including husband Scott, who not coincidentally is RFM’s creative director. You can read Karen’s take on parenting her three daughters – Sam, Robin, and Lindsey, also known as the women-children – in the Editor’s Voice.
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