Valentine’s Day

This guest post is from Christina Taber-Kewene, OG BCC Permablogger and self-described “writer, business owner and very pandemic-depressed mother of four trying to survive February.”

I thought I had done an adequate mothering job in preparing for Valentine’s Day this year. I remembered more than a week ahead to order craft supplies from Target so we could make and mail cards for the grandparents, although not before all the pre-made ones were sold out and not in time to have them delivered before the Sunday afternoon I had set aside for crafting. Fortunately, my Sunday morning walking buddy is better stocked than I, and she loaded me up with enough stickers and doilies to get us through the first round of card making.

By Monday morning I had those in the mail, and when the new supplies arrived after school that day, the girls eagerly tore into them, stuffing the family “mailbox” with homemade love. I even managed to grab the gummy hearts, cinnamon bears, and chocolate truffles from the Target box before anyone noticed them and stash them somewhere that I promptly forgot about, so they may actually last until the big day. 

When the class parents for my fourth grader invited the students to make cards for their classmates and teachers, I encouraged Cecily to participate. She wasn’t enthused– she would have to make them by hand because of the aforementioned parenting fail on pre-made cards, and this being virtual schooling, she wasn’t sure she cared enough about all the kids in her class to make them cards. On the other hand, there was the possibility that she might receive candy back in the exchange. Grudgingly, she churned out 11 cards plus three for the teachers, as instructed by the class parents. 

“But I have 21 kids in my class and two teachers!” she protested. 

Maybe this was some kind of complicated exchange that wasn’t one-to-one? Never mind, she had done it. We left our bag of cards out for the porch swap, and that night a beautiful gift bag filled with pink and red cards appeared for her. 

“Should I open them now?” she wondered aloud the next morning before class. 

I shrugged.  “Not everyone participated, so you won’t be doing it online as a class. Go ahead, I guess.”

As she unfolded the cards, Cecily was puzzled. 

“Who is Vivi? Who is Liam?” There were two heart-shaped lollipops, a packet of Airheads, and a craft kit, though, so that was exciting enough. Man, who gives a craft kit in a class Valentine’s swap? I’m really not keeping up here!

I rushed around until 8:00 AM, blending smoothies and baking scones, making sure the older kids were up and online in time for first period. These cards were not much on my mind, but my kindergartener wanted to know why her class hadn’t done an exchange too. 

“Don’t worry, Thea, we’ll have so much fun together as a family on Valentine’s Day! It doesn’t matter.”

Not long into the school day, and perhaps five minutes after I have finally sat down at my desk, I hear the shortened breath of a crying kindergartener as she rushes toward my office. She is sobbing so hard, I can’t understand what the problem is. This happens a lot– even through we have purchased a total of four new computers and two new phones in the last 14 months for a family of six, we have to triage a little– she is the only one left with the nearly obsolete, school district-issued Chromebook. Her wifi cuts out when she switches classes, and on at least a daily basis I have to calm my tearful child while we try to re-load and re-enter her virtual classroom. No matter how many times we practice breathing exercises and reassure her that her teachers aren’t leaving her behind, her anxiety spikes. 

But school just started– she shouldn’t be having problems yet. I finally quiet her enough to ascertain that the class is doing a craft. Gap-toothed kids are holding cardboard toilet paper tubes. I unmute her computer and ask the teacher if we were supposed to prepare something ahead for this. There hadn’t been an email I missed, had there? I’m a conscientious inbox checker; It’s rather a point of pride. 

“Did you get the bag from the class parents?” Mrs. Sinclair holds up a very familiar looking pink and red gift bag. “It has a ladybug craft for the kids.” 

Oh.

I rush into Cecily’s room, grab the craft from the pretty gift bag, wipe Thea’s tears and settle her back in front of her screen. It all makes sense: 11 cards for the 11 other kids in the kindergarten class, three cards for the three teachers, a kindergarten-level craft from the teachers. The email was from the kindergarten class parents, not those from Cecily’s class.

 In a normal year, I would never have made that mistake, but this year is different. We are all strangers, wandering through virtual space together but apart, barely noticing one another as we juggle the amorphous mass of labor that must be held aloft each day: online schooling, parents’ work, housework and churchwork and the relentless hovering of the virus breathing down our necks.

When the girls have a snack break, I confess my mixup to them. We laugh. They laugh at me. Cecily, in a rare display of grace, says she is glad that Thea gets to enjoy the Valentine’s Day cards and treats. “She shared a lollipop with me too, so it’s okay.” 

It’s okay. We are okay. I mean, there are now 11 kindergarten kids and three teachers with a Valentine signed by a fourth grader, but I suppose it doesn’t matter much compared to what the world is facing. As the days come dribbling along toward the one-year mark of this shutdown, we cradle our survivors’ guilt as we face the monotony of a fairly locked down life. It’s breakfast, school, work, lunch, work, TV, Minecraft,  sledding, dinner, books, work, UNO, Scrabble, sleep, repeat. And sometimes we have a little crisis. Then we turn back to the baking and board games, geometry and biology homework, and we carry on. 

Comments

  1. Jordan Hokanson says:

    I remember giving Valentine cards to my classmates in elementary school. I can’t imagine the stress you felt making Valentine cards for all of your children. I think sometimes we get too caught up with these holidays that we forget the true meaning. I am glad you were able to help your daughter remain calm.

  2. Oh, I didn’t make the cards; she did. I was feeling proud that we made it happen, and then I had scrambled the classes! It’s just how parenting goes, and somehow it all feels heightened during this time of isolation and winter.

  3. Are we not all sad Kindergarteners these days? Thanks for reminding us we will be okay.

  4. Indeed, Kristine

  5. I really loved this post.

  6. “I suppose it doesn’t matter much compared to what the world is facing.” Thanks for putting it all into perspective!

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