Celebrating Valentine’s Day with the Not-So-Little Loves of Your Life

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It seems that before we’re even finished decking the halls in December, the frilly, sparkly Valentine’s Day decorations, cards, and gifts begin popping up. It’s a challenge to meander through stores in January without coming across an item that reminds you that love will soon be in the air.

It was on a recent stroll through Target that I walked right into their seasonal section of Valentine’s Day goodies. Boxes and boxes of cards with sweet sentiments for classmates, bags and boxes of candy, and shelf after shelf of pink and red stuffed animals crowded my path. I paused and began scanning the offerings, and out of habit I immediately compiled a mental shopping list for classroom parties.

And then it hit me.

With one kid in high school, one in middle school, and the youngest in his last year of elementary school, there isn’t a need for all of those items. In fact, it had been years since I needed much of it at all. I snapped out of my Valentine’s flashback and tried to rationally reassess the list I’d started in my head.

Because my fifth grader would not want all of the fluff that younger elementary-aged kids enjoy at their parties, I successfully left Target without a single Valentine’s Day purchase (score one for Mom, right??) When I arrived home, I asked him what type of Valentines he wanted to share this year. He shrugged it off, uninterested in the conversation as he was focused on his FIFA soccer match on his video game. 

Valentine’s Day With New Traditions

It became clear that this year’s celebrations would look a bit different than year’s past.

Valentine's day with TweensI was sad, as it’s always sobering to realize that an era of childhood is ending. I reasoned with myself that we could still celebrate Valentine’s Day, but that much like many other seasonal events, our festivities would need to evolve as the kids mature. The sadness was lingering, though. It seems that every time I turn around, there is another reminder that the kids are quickly growing up and leaving our cutesy traditions behind. Motherhood is bittersweet this way.

On the other hand, there is always an opportunity to create new traditions. Just because the kids are getting older doesn’t mean we have to scrap all the fun! There will always be candy treats and thoughtful trinkets on Valentine’s Day. (I do find that as the kids mature, the cost of their trinkets increases!) I will just need to find a nice balance of grown-up, but not too grown-up. The fuss can be smaller, to hopefully avoid the “Mom, you’re embarrassing me” reaction that we hear so often once our kids hit a certain age. Today’s tweens and teens have so much more on their plate than kids did when I was that age. They are expected to navigate intense minefields of social media, academic expectations, and extracurricular excellence. As a worried parent, any time I can find a way to remind them of simple joys, I’ll take it. Abandoning the little celebrations completely, just because we need to respect that the kids are growing out of some traditions, simply isn’t an option. 

Glittery cards, sugary treats, and fun trinkets are nice, but most importantly, this holiday is another valuable opportunity to remind the kids that they are valued and loved, just as they are. This underlying message of love and adoration makes this holiday worth celebrating, no matter how we choose to do it. 

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Jen Franklin Kearns grew up in Central Ohio and is pleased to raise her family here as well. She and her husband Mark reside in Delaware and are parents to Alex, Addie, and Andrew. Their home is completed by their loyal beagle, Maisey. Jen is a social media analyst for a local family foundation, and she is also a passionate advocate for inclusion and disability rights. Jen’s oldest son, Alex, has Down syndrome and Jen works tirelessly to ensure that Alex has access to inclusive opportunities in their community. Jen and Mark are raising their children to know that that inclusion matters for all. When Jen isn’t advocating, writing, or shuttling her kids back and forth to sports practices or club meetings, she enjoys perusing social media, reading, and drinking large amounts of coffee.