Today is February 14th. It's Valentine's Day. Tonight, my daughter and husband will each receive a box of chocolates and a homemade card. There's a good chance I'll get a pair of earrings, but I won't get roses. My spouse is adamantly opposed to paying inflated prices for flowers because of a so-called "Hallmark holiday." He would, so he tells me, rather surprise me with them all year long. (Nice thought, right? In fairness to him, he used to bring me flowers on a fairly regular basis. But, these days, between working and parenting and all the crazies that go along with both, I feel like Barbra Streisand, if you catch my drift.)
As with everything else, once you have a child, Valentine's Day becomes more and more about them and less and less about you. For several years, we made and decorated little mailboxes so that my daughter could collect valentines at school. In this day and age of politically correct fairness, each child brings home a complete list of the children in their class. They have to bring in a valentine for every single person on that list. Even the bullies, even the nerds, even their secret crush and their ex-best friend who no longer talks to them. If Janis Ian was writing "At Seventeen" now, she would have to find new lyrics. In today's classrooms, nobody knows "the pain of valentines that never came."
One year, recognizing that the days of frilly dresses and tea parties were numbered, I offered to throw a Valentine's Day party for my daughter and a half dozen of her friends. Our dining room was decked out in floor-to-ceiling pink and red. There were beads to string and cupcakes to decorate. And, being a thrifty mother as well as an affectionate one, I threw the party on the Saturday after Valentine's Day. All those hearts and streamers and little candies with the sayings on them ... half-price!
But, it's been a while since my daughter dressed up, or since we cut and signed and folded 24 Power Puff girl valentines. So, I thought that on this day dedicated to l-o-v-e, I would write about all the things that my now tween daughter dotes upon.
Here, in no particular order, is a little red foil chocolate box of what lights up my daughter's life:
Yes, they're strips of fat that are then fried in fat. But, they are ooey, gooey delicious. Confession: sometimes when her father is out with his buddies or at a late meeting, I'll agree to forego any nutritional value whatsoever and serve mozzarella sticks for dinner. "Thank you so-o-o-o-o-o-o-o much, Mom! You're the best!"
Yessirree, it buys me a lot of credit — for about an hour.
Whether there's something earth-shattering to report, or whether there isn't. It doesn't matter. The way girls of my era loved talking on the phone, that's how much today's tween and teen girls love to text. And, I guess this is appropriate for the holiday. Have you looked at the average 14-year old's texts? They look an awful lot like conversation hearts. "R U THERE?" "U R GR8!" "LUV YA"
The New Yorker recently published a story about what they called a "quiet renaissance in children's television." Um, right. Too bad we missed it. When I think of the programs on my daughter's current DVR schedule, "renaissance" is not exactly the first (or the ten thousandth) word that comes to mind. Let's see there's "trashy" and "ridiculous," but not "renaissance." Of course, you are welcome to see for yourself. Next time you're in the mood for some deep, intellectual stuff, check out The Lying Game and Pretty Little Liars.
Here's a little logic for you. If one pair of Converse All-Stars is good. And, two pairs of Converse All-Stars are great. What are five pairs of Converse All-Stars? Supermegafoxyawesomehot! Yes, that is a direct quote. And, I know, I know, I'm an enabler. On a recent trip to New York City, we invested (I won't say "wasted" — I'll think it, but I won't say it) quite a bit of time wandering around Times Square looking for the Converse super store. Turns out it's in Soho.
And it begins. Well, not quite but it's getting closer. Short of a couple of so-called "dates" at Dunkin' Donuts after school, my daughter and her friends have not started obsessing about the boys in their grade. Not yet. Instead, they obsess about the boys on TV, the boys in magazines, the boys in bands. They talk about them (a lot) and give each other sage advice. I look at the whole thing as a warm-up for the big event that's looming: high school.
There are lots of other things on my daughter's love list: her new horse, raw chocolate chip cookie dough, the extremely cool health ed teacher, her friends from camp, worn-in Hollister jeans, our ancient dachshund, brightly colored Sugar Lips tank tops, a particular iPhone game called "Surviving High School." When she loves, she loves truly, madly, deeply, with an intensity of purpose that would put Juliet and her Romeo to shame. Eventually, she will put all this passion to use.
For now, I'll end with a quote from an over-the-top romantic movie: Moulin Rouge. "The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return." Mozzarella sticks aside, my daughter knows how to love.
And, in case you haven't figured it out yet, she is very much loved in return.
Happy Valentine's Day!