Is there a solution to Valentine's Day?
A mother of four boys tries to help her sons navigate the stormy waters of young love. Applying 'Star Trek' logic, she realizes that no matter your approach, Valentine's Day will always remain an unsolved mystery. The best you can do is gather data and improve your approach for next year.
Valentine’s Day means drama for many kids who will come home from school to report they had either the “best” or “worst day ever,” as the result of either being recognized or ignored by the object of their affection.Skip to next paragraph
Lisa Suhay, who has four sons at home in Norfolk, Va., is a children’s book author and founder of the Norfolk (Va.) Initiative for Chess Excellence (NICE) , a nonprofit organization serving at-risk youth via mentoring and teaching the game of chess for critical thinking and life strategies.
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Today, parents get to explain to their kids a few things about human nature, such as the commercialization of love, how some parents may have forgotten to put valentines in their kid’s backpack, spiritual resilience, and that true love isn’t on Hallmark's schedule.
Because the giving and receiving of candy pellets stuck to commercialized, politically correct cards has become such a social imperative for younger kids these days, I try to make sure my four sons aren’t accidental heartbreakers.
Boys need a support crew for Valentine’s Day when they are younger, more so than girls who seem to be more socially mature, even in pre-school.
To that end, I inspected my troops last night and this morning to make sure they were on point for V-Day today.
My youngest, Quin, 10, had scrawled his name on 24 packs of Skittles valentines. We had been giving only cards until last year, when we learned that the rest of the moms in the posse had upped the ante to include candy with the cards.
For Quin, now in fifth grade, Valentine’s Day is a test, a critical puzzle to be solved.
“Valentine’s Day is my Kobayashi Maru,” Quin explained.
The Kobayashi Maru is known to "Star Trek" geeks worldwide as the no-win scenario taught to command-track cadets at the Starfleet Academy in the 23rd century.
According to a Star Trek Wiki, “It was primarily used to assess a cadet's discipline, character and command capabilities when facing an impossible situation, as there is no one answer to the problem.”
I think Quin's description fits Valentine's Day to a T.
For the last three years, poor Quin has either been ignored or openly rejected by the object of his affection, to be left open for teasing by bullies in his class.
No matter what approach he has taken to the problem, he has gone down in flames.
As a parent, I long ago failed the Valentine's Day Kobayashi Maru when I chose not to supply my oldest son Zoltan, now 20, with little valentines for his Pre-K class. In my efforts to not jump the gun, I apparently broke the hearts of 17 little girls that day.
A pack of Tiger Moms circled and confronted me the next day.
Each one told me off, with the general theme being, “Didn’t you ever have a boy ignore you on Valentine’s Day?”
In fact, I had been the chubby girl who never ever got valentines except from my mother and grandmother, resulting in me vowing that my son would be a great valentine giver.
My stumbling block had been the timing.
My husband informed me that boys have zero awareness or needs in the cupid department until middle or high school. Girls apparently develop full-blown cupid radar as early as "Mommy and Me" classes.
I hadn’t realized that Valentine’s Day cards had the potential to create chaos so early, for the giver and the potential receiver.
In my effort to avoid setting my son up for disappointment by asserting adult expectations on kids, I disappointed a bunch of kids and made my son a social outcast for the rest of the year. No win.
As a result of years of trying every scenario possible, I was happy to see that at least my older sons were taking on the Valentine's Day test solo this year.
Avery, 15, has his first girlfriend. When he heard me talking to Quin, he came in and made a preemptive strike.
“I got this covered,” Avery said, with his hand in the “Talk to the hand” position. “I found this awesome necklace. Got a really cool box and, yes, before you even ask, I made a card.”
Zoltan texted me last night to tell me he’s finally found a girl and he’s taking her out to dinner tonight. “Yes, before you ask, I made her a really cool card.”
Ian, 18, who has a long-term girlfriend, eyed me with deep suspicion this morning.
“We’re good to go for Valentine’s Day,” he said before I could get a word in edgewise.
Still, there’s Quin, armed with his 24 little packets, a special one for the girl he likes.
This morning, I told him that no matter what he sees on TV and what other kids say, this is not the only day someone can love you.
“Today isn’t a test," I said. "If it was, it would be the 'Star Trek' kind with no right answer. It’s more like an experiment to see how different elements react. You can’t fail by giving someone candy; they can only fail to appreciate how awesome you are.”
These words of wisdom were the result of parental polling data that I had gathered days ago from Ian and Zoltan.
I asked if there was ever anything I’d told them on Valentine’s Days past when they had been rejected by a girl that helped them to get over it.
“Nothing’s going to make it 100 percent better, but it helps to have you tell us things like ‘If she didn’t see what’s good about you, she just wasn’t the right one,’” said Zoltan today.
Ian said, “What helped me get over a bad Valentine’s Day? The day after Valentine’s Day when you realize you made it out the other side.”
It’s Valentine’s Day and we’re going in. See you all on the other side.