Tonight, at approximately 6:33 p.m., I was at my neighbourhood drugstore – along with 86 other last-minute Valentine shoppers – perusing the boxes of kids’ cards (you know, the kind you buy in a pack of 30). I was picking up some little cards for the boys in my six-year-old daughter’s class, because the two packages that I’d bought from Wal-Mart earlier in the day were deemed “too girly.”
Fair enough, and an easy enough problem to fix. But first, I just have to say wow…kiddie Valentine offerings have totally gone off the rails these days. It seems it’s not enough to give just a simple, little card to your classmate; there is now a vast array of Valentines with “special features” like temporary tattoos, scratch-and-sniff pictures, window cling-ons and hologram pictures. I have to admit I was a bit bedazzled by a package of bug-themed gel clings – I figured those would get the boy-stamp-of-approval.
Now, if buying an assortment of little Valentine cards – and helping the kids to organize and address them – was all that constituted my Valentine prep, I would be laughing. But as this Valentine’s Day approached, our two daughters have been charged up about a school fund-raising dance. In fact, my nine-year-old was so concerned about wearing something theme and colour-appropriate that I set out last week to find her a new outfit.
I need to preface this by saying that this is something pretty new; until recently, Elissa was pretty thrilled with whatever clothing I chose and put in front of her. So to have her request something special – and for her to be so concerned about looking nice – is different and admittedly a little bit scary; it’s a poignant reminder that she’s growing up.
After hitting several kids’ stores last week – and coming back with the wrong sized shirt (darn it – there’s that growing up thing again!), I finally came home with an outfit for her that was a hit. Of course, I couldn’t buy for one daughter and not the other – so they both have cute, new threads in red, pink and white colours.
I also put together some Valentine treat bags for them – finding some inexpensive, little items like heart straws, heart-themed Kleenex and some mild-scented body mist. I love doing this type of thing – it’s fun for me to hunt for special stuff, and it’s a thrill to see their little faces light up when they receive it.
While there has been a lot of fun moments planning different Valentine surprises for the family, I got a sharp reminder today that parenting is not just fun and games.
It was while I was bustling both girls out of the house – for evening activities which start at 6 p.m. – that Elissa made some sharp comments to me. While I was starting the car and preparing to back out of the driveway, she yelled, “Hey, WOMAN! Don’t start driving yet – I’m still buckling up!” Hmm…being called “woman” doesn’t sit so well with me, especially coming from my own sharp-tongued nine-year-old. I quickly warned her not to call me that – and not to speak to me in that tone.
After picking up her friend en route to their activity, I got back in the car to hear another comment. “You took too long – I’m going to be late! You spent too much time talking at the door.” OK, let’s back it up here, kid…in fact, I put the car back in park and suggested that she could walk to her activity. “I’d probably get there faster,” came her too-quick, brazen reply. “OK, great,” I snapped. “Feel free to get out and walk then.” Suddenly, it didn’t seem like such a good idea and Elissa got quiet.
After dropping them off, I drove home feeling irritable that I had done so much for the kids today (albeit a lot of it being surprises they don’t yet know about) and not feeling appreciated for it. I felt like I was the big, mean mom – even though I knew I was in the right. Of course, that also took away a bit of the lustre of all the fun things I’d planned for Valentine’s Day.
Later that evening, after talking to her about what happened, she burst into tears, apologized and gave me a big hug. In a heartbeat, the snarky “tween” was gone and my gentle little girl was back.
I suppose my lesson tonight was that I’ve got to love my kids hard enough to teach them the tough lessons; for it’s only then that we can enjoy our sweet rewards together.