As Valentine's Day approaches I know with absolute certainty that I will be showered with gifts and cards. Oh, but not from my husband, or a torch carrying ex, or a secret lover. No: my declarations of love, in all their sticky-back-plasticked glory, will come from my children.
The whole charade makes me cringe. Don't get me wrong, it's great to know how much my children love me, but since when did Cupid start taking instructions from kids?
Valentine's Day is for lovers, pure and simple. There's nothing more exciting than receiving an anonymous card through the post, and I vividly remember my heart banging against my rib cage as I sneaked a bright red envelope into the school bag of Richard Mannings, my high school amour.
Teenagers with crushes? Sure. Young lovers? Of course. Hell, even old married dames like me can enjoy a bit of a flush at some garage forecourt flowers and a cut-price card. But NOT CHILDREN.
Children are innocent. They don't need boyfriends, girlfriends or anything in between. They don't need the language of love, or the torment it brings when it's unrequited, and they don't need grown-ups to push them into sending cards they never would have thought about without interference. It's grossly inappropriate to bring kids into a world meant for adults.
Let them make their misspelt cards at Easter, Christmas and harvest time, when children can put their own sweet spin on festivities. If nothing else, it'll give my recycling box a break...
Search on Pinterest for 'Valentine's Day' and you'll find a host of activities for children. From loo roll 'love bugs' to 'bee' my Valentine bumble bee cards, there are a million ways for your five-to-ten-year-old to declare their undying love to you, to their class-teacher, or to their fellow students.
Does no one else find this just a little bit distasteful?
My friend Alice, a primary school teacher, thinks I'm in the minority. "Valentine's Day is about love," she tells me, "and children have a huge capacity for love. We have a whole week of activities planned, including making cards and chocolate hearts to take home for their parents."
But would she condone children giving cards and gifts to each other? In America (where else?) Valentine's Day is big business. This blog post by Princess Pinky Girl suggests some alternatives to 'all the candy' usually given on February 14th. Crayon hearts ('very easy, and super cute'), friendship bracelets, heart bracelets... the list goes on.
"We don't allow the exchange of Valentine's gifts," Alice says. "But that's more about the risk of some children feeling left out, than any sense that it might be inappropriate."
When I canvassed my friends they were similarly unperturbed by the thought of their children sending Valentine's cards. Comments ranged from 'I think it's sweet', to 'they'll have more than enough years of not getting a card – let them enjoy being popular while it lasts!' Only a couple echoed my views. My friend Dan has two daughters, Mabel, nine, and Katie, seven. Last year Mabel got a card from a boy at school, and Dan confessed he didn't like it one bit.
"She was eight'," he says, and his face darkens at the memory. "And this lad was two years above her. Two! The card read 'be mine' and in it he'd written 'I love you', with twenty seven kisses. Twenty seven. I counted them." He laughs, to show he's joking, but it's clear he's uncomfortable. "I suppose it was just a reminder to me that my girls are growing up, and that one day these Valentines will be from big hairy teenaged boys with designs on my girls. And that's an awkward thought for any dad!"
I can see his point. Would it be different if he had boys, and they received cards from a girl?
Dan thinks for a while. "Yup, I'm not sure I'd have had a problem with that," he grins.
I don't want to be a killjoy, but in a world where our children are sexualised so early, with sloganed t-shirts and dolls adorned in heels and lipstick, I'm uncomfortable with my kids jumping headfirst into a day built so firmly around relationships, love and sex. Valentine's Day is for adults: stop making children grow up so fast.
What do you think?
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