Credit: Diane Selkirk

Roses are Red, Violets are Blue, I Really Care—so no lame licensed characters for you…

If you are a parent of a school-aged child you’ve probably had that moment: You’re tucking them into bed and are ready to kick back with a glass of wine and a book (okay, that second part is pure fantasy) when they remind you that they need something for class the next morning. It’s usually something like a snack for a party, or a science project. But last year, in my case, it was Valentine’s cards, 23 of them. So I kissed the little tyke on her head (more firmly than required really), threw a coat over my jammies and hoofed it to London Drugs, where I had the choice of Dora or Sponge Bob, $3.79 for a box of 10…

I loved Valentine’s Day as a kid. My mum would get us a box of mixed Valentines (I’m guessing the box had 100 little cards or so), and we would sort through—choosing just the right card for the right friend. The boy I had a crush on from 1st through 4th grade always got the giraffe with the flowers (there was something about carefully printing his name, kissing the card and then folding over that long neck that just made me feel so hopeful…). By the time I was in 5th grade, the ritual had changed a bit—now we made a few elaborate cards (a red heart glued to a gold foil doily was my signature card) for our BFFs and handed them to each other outside of school.

This was the event I was prepared for when I sent Maia to school clutching her little bag of over-priced cards. But when I picked her up that afternoon she was laden with lollipops, trinkets, cupcakes, chocolates and more ads for licensed characters (a.k.a. cards) than she had seen in her whole cable-free life to date.

Someone had gone and messed with my favourite school holiday.

I figure you have three options when the world changes in a way you don’t agree with. You can suck it up and conform, you can blithely do your own thing or you can lodge a formal protest. When it’s your child’s world that’s changed though, the choices are a bit trickier. Not conforming tends to be a balancing act—you either end up creating a new trend (think of all those fabulous parents who throw charity birthday parties for their kids) or you single you and your child out as, mmm, geeks…

Despite the consequences, I’ve decided that Valentine’s is my line in the sand. I’m protesting that a sweet ritual, which should be about dreaming about love and appreciating friends, has become over-hyped and over-commercialized. My solution is to pull out the art supplies and help my daughter make cards that mean something to her. Hopefully, they won’t look too shabby beside the glossy Doras and Sponge Bobs.

And hopefully hers won’t be the only homemade cards.