It’s the Tuesday before Valentines Day. I’ve just come home from Wal-Mart with groceries for the week, including some fun stuff like Caladium bulbs for the front yard and Penguins of Madagascar Valentine cards for Andrew and Jack to give to their classmates on Friday. After the impromptu wrestling match that ensued last year at CVS because Andrew wanted to buy Clone Wars Valentines, while more sensitive, traditional Jack, wanted puppy/kitten cards, I went shopping alone. Although gossip has died down, people occasionally ask if the Weight kids are still banned from the CVS on Hillcrest. What does it matter, really? RiteAid has more attractive prescription labels, and their staff is less judgmental.
Anyway, I have the 2010 Valentine cards now. Sometime before Friday Andrew will carefully write each of his classmates’ names in his best cursive, while I beg and plead with Jack to at least scribble an “X” on his 12 cards. Jack is 4, in pre-K and just learning to write his name. Outwardly, he’s proud of his new found writing skill, but has no desire to demonstrate it, not even when bribed with marshmallows. His refusal applies only to certain documents: Valentines, homework and birthday cards. However, he has no problem at all scrawling his John Hancock in graffiti style 48 pt font across our mortgage documents and Andrew’s birth certificate.
Now onto my dilemma that I need your help with. It’s not about how to get Jack to write his name on command, or how to get back in good graces with the Dublin CVS store (but anytime you want to mention what a nice, upstanding family the Weights are to anyone on their management team, including, but not limited to Mike White, Trevor Shenker or Danielle Smith, it’s fine with us). My dilemma is whether to make Valentine’s Day goodie bags for my kids’ classmates.
“Surely you jest! This is the biggest decision of your life right now? You call THIS a dilemma!?!?!?” I hear my sister Pamela’s mocking voice in the back of my mind. “I have 27 patients in various stages of stomach cancers, 3 in need of new kidneys, 436 with H1N1, and one suffering complications of a scalp transplant gone wrong. And YOU’RE stressing over making goodie bags!” Insignificant. It’s how she’s made me feel my whole life. I’m just imagining that’s how the phone conversation would go were I to call her. So I won’t.
I refuse to fall victim to holiday mania. Like so many overzealous moms who have turned every holiday on the Gregorian calendar (including Arbor Day and Administrative Assistant’s Day**) into occasions to have parties, send clever cards, try festive new recipes and lavish children with cellophane baggies full of plastic trinkets that will be lost in mini-van and couch crevices in under three hours. I call it the Hallmark effect.
I remember Valentines Days when I was a kid, I got Valentine cards. Only. Garfield, Bugs Bunny, Strawberry Shortcake, My Little Pony, Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood. They were plain old cards, no goodie bags, not even a Tootsie pop taped to the envelope. Now kids bring home Nintendo-DS games and tanning salon gift certificates along with their conversation hearts. Back in my day, the only one getting presents at a birthday party was the birthday kid. Now everyone, even younger siblings who weren’t invited, get elaborate goodie bags that I swear must cost $25 bucks a piece. I want to pull the parents aside and say “how ‘bout instead of giving Andrew and Jack goodie bags, you pay my cable bill. Deal?”
I hate making class goodies. I’m not Martha Stewart. I’m not even Peg Bundy. It’s a competition I can’t win. Heck, I won’t even get honorable mention. I’ve tried. After the madness of making homemade eyeballs with dyed red coconut blood vessels stuffed inside ghost bags with plastic yo-yo’s, glow bracelets and bouncy balls for Halloween, I said “no more!” Then the night before the class Christmas party, I stayed up late putting together goodie bags with bubbles, pixie sticks, stickers and mood rings, only to see the next day that Kelsey’s mom had knitted a red reindeer cap for every kid in the class, and they were really cute, with cool zigzag stitching. Jake’s mom had painted each child’s name on their own keepsake ornament. I wanted to burn Jack’s cap and ornament along with the trite little inadequate baggies I was handing out. Knowledge of city fire ordinances kept me from doing so. I shook my fist in the air and shouted “NEVER AGAIN” to no one in particular except the janitor who looked a little frightened. I would NOT participate in this competition of Mommy Show Off Madness.
Now Valentine’s Day is approaching. I know that if I don’t make goodie bags, or at least some clever craft that the teacher will coo over saying “oh isn’t that just precious!” I’ll feel guilty. I’ll feel as if I’ve failed my sons. If Jack catches the flu this year, I’ll know it’s because I didn’t make V-Day goodie bags. If, in first grade, he scores below grade level on the CRCT, I’ll trace it back to the absence of goodie bags in February 2010. If at 16, he steals a car and takes it on a criminal joyride to Mexico leaving a trail of destruction, robbery and arson in his wake, I’ll blame it on……
Maybe I will make goodie bags after all. Ya know, better safe than sorry.
** Admin Assistant's Day is no longer called Secretaries Day because the latter term was deemed politically incorrect by a government agency made up of overly sensitive, easily offended people which was formed to discern terms that might offend at least one out of every 65 million people. This led to kinder, more sensitive naming of holidays that no one really celebrates anyway.