Third Grade Valentines

A Mother and Son's Reflections

By Debbie Farmer

Things are tense at our house. It's the beginning of February, which means it's getting close to Valentine's Day, which means my son will have to sign valentine cards. Some of you are probably wondering how cheery little cards made for demonstrating love and affection could be a source of such frustration.

Unless, of course, you happen to be a mother of a nine-year-old boy. Then you know there is nothing harder in this world than getting a third grader to fill out Valentine's Day cards for his classmates. Not because he doesn't like them, mind you, but because chances are some of his classmates are girls.

Naturally things weren't always this way. I remember the good old days, back in kindergarten, when Valentine's Day was a nice, light-hearted holiday filled with love and Winnie-the-Pooh valentines and heart-shaped candy for everyone. But, trust me, all that's over now.

If you think I'm exaggerating just try asking any third grade boy about their opinion on Valentine's Day cards and chances are they 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 hideous.

And don't think you can get around it by suggesting he only give cards to the boys in the class. It's not only unfair and wrong and could cause a lot of hard feelings, but on top of that it's sort of, well, weird.

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 nine-year-old boy of this:

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: Bu-
Son: And, look, my hand is cramping!
Me: But you haven't written anythin-.
Him: OWWWW!!!!!

I've tried letting him pick out boy-acceptable Valentine cards with, say, pictures of monster trucks and sports figures and violent super heroes on them. But, call me crazy, I always thought there's something unconvincing about "Be My Friend Forever" written on a picture of two wresting champs clamped together in a headlock.

Besides, don't think for a minute that a third grade boy will fall for a trick as simple as this.

So, it's no surprise I finally had to resort to Plan B: launching into my favorite ten-minute diatribe fondly called Manipulation Through Guilt. I emphasized key points like 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 $5.00 for a box of lousy cards that will just have to be thrown away anyway. And on and on.

Just when I was about to give up and forge his signature myself, he announced that maybe, just maybe, he'd bring the Valentine cards with cookies to school after all. Apparently, in the third grade, Valentine cards are much more acceptable when given out with frosted, heart-shaped cookies.

Unreasonable? Sure. Manipulative? Maybe.

But regardless of the motivation, all 25 cards are signed and we're good for another year. Sometimes, with nine-year-old boys and Valentine's Day, that's the most you can ask for.

Debbie lives with her husband, two children and way too many cats.

Originally published in AlbemarleFamily Living January 2007. For more great stories be sure to visit More Great Reading online or pick up the newest issue of our magazine at a nearby newsstand.

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