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Are boxed classroom Valentines convenient, lazy…or a non-issue?

The Minimalist Parenting take on classroom Valentines. Design: Christine Koh

Last week at Parent Hacks, I posted an adorable idea for homemade Valentines. At the end of the post, I added a reminder that homemade Valentines are wonderful…if you or your kid are into that sort of thing. If not, buying a box of valentines from the drugstore isn’t lazy. It’s simply a choice to spend your time and attention elsewhere.

Christine — who is not only a co-author, blogger, digital strategist, and runner, she’s also a graphic designer — turned my “Valentine’s Day sanity check” into a graphic which we shared on the Minimalist Parenting Facebook page. One of the central themes of Minimalist Parenting is doing less of the stuff that isn’t important to you, so there’s more room for stuff that is.

In less than a week, this message has gotten 55 likes and been shared 26 times. That’s a lot for a Facebook page as small as ours.

Point is, many people felt relieved and somewhat vindicated. More parents than ever are caught in a web of Pinterest-fueled guilt about taking what they see as “the easy road” when it comes to school Valentines (or any other number of parenting choices).

But something else happened. A couple folks responded with “what’s the big deal?” “Seriously? People feel bad about buying Valentines?” One woman suggested it could be “part of the competitiveness of younger parents” and then graciously bowed out of the conversation, noting with a wry :) that “clearly y’all not writing for my demographic.”

Isn’t it interesting that our reactions to something as innocuous as classroom valentines can change so much in a single generation?

When I was a kid, classroom Valentines were a strictly store-bought affair (my favorites were Scooby-Doo). I paid more attention to the messages written on the back than the Valentines themselves (particularly if a boy I liked wrote “love” instead of “from” when signing his name). There was little-to-no candy attached, and my mom barely paid attention to what I brought home from school.

Now, I go through my kids’ school Valentines with them when they come home. Sometimes we homemake Valentines (my daughters are both crafty and sentimental), other times we don’t, but I do love to see what other kids pass out to their friends.

There are still plenty of store-bought Valentines, almost every one has candy attached, and there are always a couple elaborate homemade versions (likely the result of parental involvement). I’d be lying if I said there weren’t a couple years when I felt like a loser for buying boxes of Star Wars valentines and calling it done.

That was a long time ago, and I know better now. I’ve internalized my own message and do my best to spend time on the things my kids and I care about. There are a million things I could do “better,” more thoroughly, or with more style. If I did it all, I’d go nuts.

As you go forth and spread the Valentine’s Day love, keep this sanity check in mind. If you and your kids take delight in making Valentines, have a ball! If you don’t…buy a box and don’t give it another moment’s thought.

Asha Dornfest is the co-author of Minimalist Parenting: Enjoy Modern Family Life More By Doing Less and publisher of Parent Hacks, a site crammed with tips for making family life easier.

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