Things are tense at our house. It's getting close to Valentine's Day, which means my son will have to sign Valentine's cards.
How can cheery little cards made for demonstrating love and affection be a source of parental frustration?
Granted, it doesn't make much sense ... unless, of course, you happen to be the mother of a 9-year-old boy. Then you know that there is nothing harder in this world than getting a third-grader to fill out Valentine's Day cards for his classmates.
This isn't because he doesn't like them, mind you, but because some of his classmates are girls.
If you think I'm exaggerating, ask any third-grade boy about Valentine's Day cards, and probably he will tell you that the mere thought of sending them, especially ones printed with incriminating words such as "like" or "cool," to a third-grade girl is simply revolting.
And don't think a parent can get around this by suggesting he only give cards to the boys in the class. It's not only unfair and wrong, it could also cause a lot of hard feelings.
Clearly, the only right thing to do is to bring cards for everyone. The teacher, the principal, the crossing guard, his classmates. Everyone. But just try convincing a 9-year-old boy of this.
For instance, our dialogue last night went:
Me: You need to sign your name on all 25 cards.
My son: Twenty-five times? TWENTY-FIVE? I can't write that much.
Me: Come on, your name only has three letters.
Son: But I feel weak!
Me: ButSon: And, look, my hand is cramping!
Me: But you haven't written anything.
Sure I've tried letting him pick out cards with pictures of monster trucks and sports figures and superheroes on them. But, call me crazy, I always thought there's slightly something unconvincing about "Be My Friend Forever" written on a picture of two wrestling champs clamped together in a headlock.
So, it's no surprise that I finally had to resort to Plan B: launching into my favorite 10-minute diatribe fondly called Manipulation Through Guilt.
I emphasized key points such as how he could make the world a better place by showing love. And about how demonstrating love is the noblest emotion humans can have. And about how he'd better not think he could get away with making his mom spend $5 for a box of cards that will just have to be thrown away.
And on and on.
Just when I was about to give up and forge his signature, my son announced that maybe, just maybe, he'd take the cards to school along with some cookies.
Apparently, in the third grade, valentines are much more acceptable when given out with frosted, heart-shaped cookies.
But regardless of the motivation, at least all 25 cards are signed and we're good for another year. And sometimes, with 9-year-old boys and Valentine's Day, that's the most you can ask for.