Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Valentine's Day, seriously

This Friday (12th February) is Valentine's Day. Now before you say, "oh no it isn't!" I have to beg to differ. That is the day our two youngest children are, near as I can tell, compelled to bring a Valentine's card to every other person in the class. The school sent home a convenient list of the some 45 names in total that require cards and the instruction that they be prepared for Friday. And by prepared, you can't just go to the store, buy a pack and put names on it. Nor can you, as I had wanted to do, draw a card on the computer and hit print (quantity = 45). Each requires individual attention. Suffice it to say, this is an exercise requiring many hours and, frankly, if we didn't have a snow day today (that is, a day whereupon fear of snow = no school for you), it is unclear whether the household could produce the required amount of love.

How did this happen? In Australia, Valentine's Day exists but is incidental and certainly not officially existent at school. We ignore it totally (yes, including the adults, thank goodness). But here, it appears the school has had the temerity to attempt to desecrate an innocent Hallmark event and try and turn it into something meaningful. The cost to us is obvious. Time and effort without what appears to be any extra meaning. Let me tell you if you hear, "why do we have to do this?" 45 times, the generation of meaning is surely lacking.

Now this turn of events, compulsory Valentines, probably had its origins in its counterpoint, voluntary Valentines. The problem there was there was some inequity in the card -- and hence, love -- distribution. So the solution was equity and as much of it as possible. And apparently, at no point has anyone managed a 'secret' Valentines arrangement restricting cards to a series of bilateral arrangements so that everyone has one. Friday, our children will lug 20 odd cards a piece to school and bring 20 odd cards back.

One might also ask: what happened to Valentine's Day for our middle school, 6th grader? She hasn't heard a thing about it and also isn't considering making any cards (she still doesn't know her classmates that well). I have no idea what the consequence of that is going to be. But in an environment where all of her classmates were used to producing cards en masse, what will happen this year when the compulsory becomes voluntary? Best stock up on ice cream just in case.