I recently posted a <small> diatribe about the current Valentine’s Day box situation… and it kind of exploded. What situation you ask? Well, THIS situation…
My oldest is in Kindergarten this year so I’m new to all the rules and regulations (read: the unspoken but highly sought-after set of couture mom-expectations…) for parties. I’ve (intentionally) managed to avoid all the parties so far this year (yep… I’m THAT mom!) but had decided to attend his V-day party because he asked me to. Keep in mind, my kid made his own box. I helped with glue and glitter (as any smart, carpet-saving mom would), but the rest was his design, he ideas, his doing. It was just perfect. But Wednesday my mind was blown by the pictures posted on Facebook, all the “look what my kid made!” posts (really?!) I was astounded at the designs- impressed, but also really, really concerned. Hence my FB post.
And yes… I’m totally going to spiritualize it further here…
Get on Pinterest (both the highlight and bane of my domestic existence- can I get an AMEN?) and there’s oodles of ideas. Both creative and darling. Also virtually impossible for any kid under the age of 8 to actually make look like the pictures (without help (and by ‘help’ I mean mom is doing it all- a kid helping to hold the glue stick doesn’t count )….)
Back to my original thought though, I had no idea how many people had an opinion on this! And the overwhelming (like as in 100% of people) agreed with me that the expectations have gone wildly out of control. My post, “I’m a bit alarmed at the valentine box ‘thing’. I didn’t realize we were supposed to do couture boxes. Whatever happened to stickers, glitter, and paper-heart cut-outs on a shoebox covered in paper??” was simple… yet the response of moms everywhere was huge.
Generally speaking, what started years ago as a sweet, SIMPLE craft project (usually done at school) has been hijacked… and in the course of all us moms trying to create something fun and note-worthy for our kids, we’ve unwittingly created an unsustainable and dangerous precedent of expectation. I don’t want to be a Debbie-Downer here… but I’m gonna be… As a very wise woman commented on my post, “Some where along the way it seems like we replaced fun with competition.” Too true. And what’s sad is that it’s not even competition among the kids, it’s competition among the parents. It’s ego… it’s humble-bragging. After all, why would you post a picture of the box your child supposedly made, knowing full-well they didn’t? I don’t get it. (Keep in mind, I’m talking strictly about littles here… if my kid at the age of 12 wants to knock himself out, I’ll be right there holding the black glitter as he designs a Valentines Death Star out of toothpicks HIMSELF.)
We need to stop. For so many reasons- 3 of which I want to highlight here (aren’t you glad you’re still reading!?)
Not Enough: Parents making these boxes, or helping too much, is telling our children that what they can make isn’t good enough. It’s not pretty or creative, big or detailed enough. It is subtle, but it’s there all the same. “Child, you need my help to make this _____ enough.” “It needs to look like this.” I know most will say they don’t intentionally do this… of course we would never say these things to our kids. But our actions speak otherwise right? It starts with Valentines boxes and moves into science fair projects and research papers. We fill in the gaps too often and thereby set the expectation that if what the child does isn’t up to par… we will fix it, we’ll make it better and brighter. Before you know it, we’ve grown a full-fledged kid who relies on parents to do ‘his’ best work… an unsustainable and unhealthy safety net has been established. We’ve handicapped our own children by setting the bar too low and too high all at the same time.
Ain’t nobody got time for that! Seriously, there is not a single mom who commented that said there was time in her day to make these outlandish, couture boxes. Parents who work full-time out of the home, parents who work full-time in the home… no a one said they had time. But they also felt the pressure to do something spectacular- mostly so their child wouldn’t show up to school and be disappointed that their box was sub-par. So they made time… time they all reported they didn’t have. Time that could (very) arguably be spent doing something more worthwhile. If our kids want awesome boxes (which let us let them decide what is awesome without any subtle or not-so-subtle hints from Pinterest) then let them do it themselves. It’s a win-win. We don’t lose the time and they design something they can honestly and personally be proud of (and then ya’ll are allowed to post a picture, k?)
It’s what’s on the inside that counts. This is the kicker for me. If we are to model and display Biblical principals, then even little things like this count too. Our society adores and mimics that which is beautiful on the outside. Too much and too often. We race towards what someone else says is beautiful, creative, or unique- that which is desirable to be or to have. I wonder how much time these families put into writing or designing the actual cards that went into these gorgeous boxes? Was equal time spent in loving-on, encouraging, or writing a meaningful note to each person as was spent in the hours making the box? (Don’t get me wrong… I’m no saint here, my kid made his box in about an hour and spent about an hour scribbling his name on 25 valentines cards… that’s all he did.) Do we want our kids to remember what the box looked like or what kindnesses were found on the inside? It’s a sobering question.
I hope this all doesn’t offend anyone, but it’s truly on my heart and won’t let go. Take my thoughts for what you will. For myself and my kids, my expectations will remain that they do this work themselves… good, bad, or ugly. If and when they decide they want something more fantastic, I’ll support them doing it themselves. We’re staying out of the competition. I want them to learn to DO their best… knowing that that won’t always BE the best. And teaching them that that is okay… that that is a more realistic expectation for the real-world.
And for this particular holiday, that’s all about love, I want my kids to know that sometimes true love doesn’t look pretty or sparkly at all. It’s dirty, hard, and very ugly at times. In fact, the greatest gift of love ever was pictured with nails on a cross, blood and guts pouring out…. and ultimately death. That’s not couture. That’s not pretty. But that is real love. They need to learn to see what’s on the inside… work on the beauty there first and most… and that will be a box worthy of some serious pictures!