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Can someone please share the manual?

There are two things I know about being a mom: 1) There is no guidebook, and 2) I’m an “old mom.” I had my first child at 35 and a lot of my contemporaries have children in high school and even college now. 

But for all I joke about being “tragically unhip,” I have to wonder if there isn’t some sort of manual for the minor holidays that is being passed around to everyone but me. Valentine’s Day is a prime example. When did that become another big gift holiday? 

I’m not going to argue about love languages and whether or not people should give elaborate gifts for Valentine’s Day, nor do I normally play the comparison game on social media. I have accepted that I’m not a Pinterest mom, and I’m not going to rail against creative parents and the tons of pictures of their clever crafts. In fact, I actually enjoy their posts. 

The problem is that I missed the memo that your kids are supposed to give “stuff” along with their class valentines. Back in my day, valentines were all about the puns or the cartoon or TV characters on the front. There might be a few conversation hearts stuck in the envelope, or a lollipop or foil-wrapped chocolate heart, but otherwise, valentine gifts weren’t elaborate. (I was also in Catholic school and always gave up candy for Lent, and Valentine’s Day often fell during Lent, so those little candies turned to rocks before Easter.) 

Both of my girls took plain, pun-filled valentines to school this week… and came back with tons of candy and other treats. The kindergarteners thought nothing of it – they can’t even read a lot of their valentines yet – but some of my third-grader’s classmates gave her a hard time, telling her, “you never give us anything good.”  

I wrote a self-deprecating post about missing the memo on Facebook, and found some solidarity. In fact, a few moms mentioned their toddlers came home from daycare with elaborate valentines accompanied by baby food, books, and even bath bombs and loofahs! For toddlers! Maybe those gifts were meant for the mamas, because heaven knows I could use bath bombs and loofahs. 

I’ve seen the minor (aka, not usually major gift giving) holidays turn into days for kids to get big piles of gifts to rival Christmas and birthdays. And I have the added challenge of one kiddo’s birthday coming five days after Valentine’s Day. I’m not one to compare, but I do ponder – when did it all change?  

Maybe I need to make more mom friends so I can keep abreast of the trends? 

Is there a support group for this? 

Or am I just old? 

What do you think, fellow parents? Is there a guide out there to holiday trends? Have you experienced something similar with Valentine’s Day or other holidays?  

Jen Deinlein
Jen Deinlein is a self-professed “Jen of all trades and master of none.” She’s a SAHM to 8- and 5-year-old daughters, a freelance writer (you can also see her work in CPBJ) and head cheerleading coach at Penn State Mont Alto. She and her family live in Guilford Township, Franklin County, with a golf course in the backyard where they frequently rescue lost golf balls. You can reach Jen on Instagram: @groovypq; Twitter: @jlbd77 or by email: [email protected].

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