Ask any woman what the most romantic day of the year is and she’ll tell you it’s Valentine’s Day. As soon as Christmas is over and the Santas and reindeers are put away, out come the Cupids and hearts. Women are not just taught to desire romance, but that we deserve it. We deserve the perfect man to give us the perfect day of love. And how can men show us their love? Gifts. And not just any gifts – the right gifts.
You heard me – don’t mess up and get the wrong gift – only the pre-sanctioned ones will do. Chocolate. Jewelry. Flowers. There’s a reason those gifts have become traditions: women like them. Even I, a practical lady, will admit to liking them. But here’s the thing: traditions get boring. They’re predictable. And once you’re married with kids they’re, well, not very practical. Here are some suggestions for how to rethink traditional Valentine’s Day presents and get something Mom can really enjoy instead.
What I don’t want: I don’t want a giant box of drugstore chocolate. If you buy it for me, I will pretend like I’m delighted (I do love chocolate) but here’s why I’m not. The first day you give it to me, I will allow myself 2 or 3 pieces because it’s Valentine’s Day. Time to celebrate! And I’ll pretend like I can only have 1 every day after. But we all know how well that works. Plus, the kids know that you gave it to me, so they’ll clamor for pieces. First they’ll find the caramel, my favorite, which they will immediately spit out because it was “too hard to chew.” The caramel! My favorite! Not even appreciated. Then they’ll realize they can stick their fingers in them to determine the filling (never mind the key on the box – what’s the fun of that?) So now I’m left with half a box of poked candies that oh yes, I will still eat, leaving me bloated and on a sugar-craving loop.
What I do want: A small amount of fancy, decadent, top-quality chocolate. I’d rather have one $8 candy bar if it’s the really good stuff than a $16 giant box of the drugstore stuff. The chocolate will be small enough to hide, so it will be mine and mine alone (I love my kids but c’mon, some things need to be just for me). I will be able to enjoy it bite by glorious bite, not shove it in thoughtlessly while talking on the phone with my mom.
What I don’t want: Yes, I like wine but I don’t need another bottle to put on the shelf. And please don’t ask the salespeople at the store for help because the truth is, I like the wine I like and I don’t really care about branching out or expanding my palate. I’m more than happy to buy my own wine and you know that I most certainly do.
What I do want: You know what we haven’t done in a really long time? Go to a wine tasting. Or go to a wine bar for flights and tapas. Wouldn’t that be fun? We could pretend like we’re dating again and ignore the fact that we needed to schedule a babysitter (or your mom) to come over so we can leave the house together.
What I don’t want: I’m not going to deny it – I love the sparkly stuff. But I rarely wear the jewelry I have, so buying more isn’t (here’s that word again) practical. After all, when I wear earrings, the baby tries to chew them out of my ears. If I wear a necklace both kids seem to think it’s a pulley to bring me to their level or them up to mine. And while I always wear my wedding ring, it’s usually covered in play-doh or food and is often dangerously close to paint or ink.
What I do want: Never in a million years did I think I’d be THAT kind of mom, but it’s true –I want the homemade, silly-looking jewelry from the kids. I want the strings of painted pasta to loop around my neck. I want to wear jewelry that means something. And I’d be enormously proud of the kids for their hard work and you for taking the time to help them make a one-of-a-kind, creative present. Plus, macaroni necklaces never go out of style.
What I don’t want: Like many women, I love flowers. I love getting them and displaying them and having them give life and color to my house. But I don’t want them for Valentine’s Day. Why? Because they cost a FORTUNE. They’re marked up 3 times and by the time you remember to buy them, they’re a limp, picked-over bundle of overpriced petals that will last for 2 days before shedding all over my counter.
What I do want: I do want flowers! How about the week before Valentine’s Day? Put just a little bit of thought into what you choose (what matches the house? What’s my favorite color? What were our wedding flowers? Ok, that’s a toughie…) and I will be wild about them. And, if you really want to get me flowers the day of, it’s an opportunity for another awesome kid craft project. They can draw or paint flowers, cut them out of construction paper or even use a finger print in a circle to make the best kind of flower – the kind you can keep forever.
Don’t you dare bring one more useless stuffed animal in this house, Mister. Keep on moving.
What I don’t want: Going out to dinner is a nice break from cooking, but not on Valentine’s Day. I don’t want to spend a ton of money for the exclusive prix fixe Valentine’s menu at a crowded, expensive restaurant because it’s THE special day and must be celebrated on that day and that day only. Plus, our regular babysitter, the recently dumped high school student, wants double her normal pay since it’s a holiday or, in her words, “a mass-marketed, Hallmark cash-grab.”
What I do want: I would love for the two of us to go out to a nice, low-key, low-expectation dinner that doesn’t bust our budget. Let’s just not do it on the actual night in question. You know what would be great for dinner on Valentine’s Day? If you cleaned up the kitchen from breakfast and lunch. If you either made us dinner or we ordered in and we ate together, over candlelight (from leftover birthday candles, natch), with our favorite music from Spotify or our ipods. And the best would be if you cleaned up after that, too.
What I don’t want: Here we go – no matter how I feel or what’s going on at work or at home, at the end of the night we both feel like we need to follow through on appointment sex. I love my husband. I love having sex. It feels good! It’s fun! But I don’t love feeling like we’re mandated to have sex merely because it’s Valentine’s Day. This night is supposed to be about love and romance, not obligatory, predictable sex.
What I do want: First of all, let’s take the sexpectations away, totally and completely. If we’re in the mood, that’s great, but no pressure. Second, ok, truth time (and time for my mom to stop reading this), I want oral sex. Just oral sex. No warm up before the main act or as a way to get me to reciprocate – just you, making me feel special and loved and attended to and me, enjoying myself completely.
Actually, you know what – skip all that other stuff like candy and pasta necklaces. I’ll take oral for birthdays and Mother’s Day too.