The End of Valen-Times

photo (65)The email request for Colin’s class Valentine’s Day party came early this week. It occurred to me this was the last time I’d ponder whether his classmates would prefer fruit juice or soda, or if I’d made enough portions of whatever for each kid plus the teacher, her aide and any other parents who might attend.

The specter of junior high school looms, and Colin’s our youngest, so after this there will be no more class parties. Next year, he’s as likely to get stuffed in a locker as come home with frosting on his shirt from someone’s birthday cupcake.

Just about the time I felt a twinge of nostalgia, a friend posted a Facebook photo of Valentine s’mores packets she’s preparing for her own son to share with classmates. He’s a fair amount younger than either of our kids, and her excitement for the holiday is bound to be higher. Still, even back in the day, I was never tempted to do anything more than help fold and sign and stick and stuff a couple of handfuls of bright colored cards into someone’s backpack just before school.

At the end of the day, Colin will come home with a bag full of such cards, along with the handicrafts of a few of the more industrious moms and classmates. He’ll give me his sour candies, because that’s what he does, and share the chocolate with his brother, who’ll tease him about a semi-romantic sounding card bearing a girl’s name. And then, basta. We’ll be done with class parties.

I remember having a mild panic attack when the whole class party thing started. We were checking out Jack’s first preschool. He’d been in a home day care until that point. The new place was sparkly clean with tidy, little toddlers playing quietly, in the air a faint smell of lavender and old lady. A woman rushed by me with a couple of pink pizza boxes, and the children got up to follow her, fingers in their mouths. There was a collective “Ohhh,” when she put the boxes on a low table and opened the top one.

Inside was a huge tart with rows of kiwis and strawberries on a layer of pale custard.

“That’s Chelsea’s mom,” a teacher said, “she does the cutest things for her daughter’s birthday.”

I thought about the last birthday cake I’d made. In lieu of the frosting I forgot, I sprinkled powdered sugar. Très innovative, if I did say so myself.

… Until whoever’s birthday it was blew out the candles and covered everyone in white dust. Oh well. I gave myself points for baking an actual cake that I could get out of the actual pan in more or less one piece.

The preschool teacher was explaining how they allowed birthday treats in the school but preferred goodies sweetened with juice instead of sugar, and that anything with nuts (allergens) or chocolate (caffeine) was strictly verboten. Beyond that, I should feel free to send whatever home-baked love I could muster with my little sweetie on his special day.

I thought about sticking a candle in a bowl of steamed carrots for Jack’s next birthday.


Frick, I thought, watching those tidy tots scarfing a pizza-sized tart like they were in some Norman Rockwell painting. My kid’s doomed.

We muddled through preschool, with its jack-booted, sugar-banning overlords, and then Jack was in first grade. Vowing to make classroom parties memorable, I volunteered to be the homeroom scapegoat organizer. This meant that for each holiday, I would contact all the parents who lied on their parent information form, saying they would help with party supplies and food. This was followed by my being completely ignored via email and phone, and avoided on the school grounds until I got the hint and just brought everything in myself.

I didn’t make that mistake again. I resolved to stick with throwing in on the occasional party, and sending my kids to school with birthday treats when it was time.

Fortunately, the boys aren’t picky. When it comes to classroom snacks, I’ve had the same schtick down for the last six years or so. Rice Krispy treats. I can whip up a batch like a champ, without directions.

For Colin’s second grade birthday he asked for frosted Rice Krispy treats, specifically honoring our alma mater, for which Colin has approximately seven thousand logo t-shirts. Because I had the Rice Krispy Treat thing down, I went the extra mile and emblazoned the pan with our university emblem in school colors. Yellow and black. Only the yellow frosting tube kind of exploded on me, so it was just a little bit of yellow, and mostly black.

I sent my kid to school with black Rice Krispy treats. Edgy.

After the black Rice Krispy treat-thing, I was usually just asked to help with cups and plates for parties.

I know. Go figure.

But when this Valentine’s Day request came in from the class scapegoat parent, I remembered 2 liter bottles of sugary soda were on sale for a buck each. And, while I was at the store, I noticed all the displays of candy hearts and red Mylar balloons and I thought, crap. I never saw anything about a Valentine exchange. Maybe they don’t do that in 6th grade?

This is it. The last time I’ll be asked to help with a class party or send something crafty to school. My friend is making little s’mores packets with heart-shaped marshmallows in 30 individually wrapped packages with bows on them and I hadn’t even thought to pick up a box of Hot Wheels cards that we’ll have to pull apart at their perforated edges.

I stood in the soda aisle for a moment, wondering who might be worried about sugar making someone hyper, or God forbid someone ingesting an ounce of caffeine. Maybe naturally flavored club soda instead? Or fruit juice? Maybe I should just send a big jug of distilled spring water infused with organic huckleberries?

I thought for a tick, maybe two, then pulled down the three bottles closest to me. A buck a piece and done. Then I went over to the Valentine’s aisle, past the X-Men and the Transformers, and grabbed a box of Pixy Stix.

Meh, I thought, if he doesn’t have a Valentine’s exchange, maybe I can sprinkle the contents on the next birthday cake.


Voting for this blog is a whole lot easier than making classroom snacks, even Rice Krispy Treats, and is much appreciated. A click a day is all I ask. Thank you.



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  1. My youngest is headed to junior high next year as well. I wasn\’t sure if his class was doing a card exchange or not but while at the hallmark shop, I went ahead and picked up a pack of \”classroom\” Valentines (read: much more expensive than the ones I could have gotten at the grocery store or Target). I get home and he didn\’t want to mess with it. Great. I\’m giving them to a co-worker whose cute little girl will appreciate them. Hmph. And yeah I\’ve seen plenty of the over achiever moms. I am sooo not one of those.

  2. And my youngest is ALSO heading to Jr High next year. I CAN NOT WAIT to be done with the Valentine\’s exchanges. They were so much more fun with my daughter, who was actually interested. Getting my son to sit down and sign his name to 21 cards I bought at CVS just isn\’t the same.

    1. I can always tell the girl valentines when they come home (aside from the names, I mean), because of the care that goes into the handwriting and the careful placing of candies, stickers, etc. Honestly, it\’s amazing the species has been able to continue considering the difference in priorities between the two sexes. I\’ll be glad to be done with this particular tradition.

  3. I asked my girls several times if they needed Valentines. \”No\”, \”No\”, both answered.
    YESTERDAY The 4th grade teacher informed the class that there would indeed be a Valentine exchange and distributed class lists. My MIL swung by the store after school and Princess Two signed, addressed and taped in place Hershey\’s minis for her class.

    Princess One, texted me that she NEEDED YORK\’S PEPPERMINT PATTIES for Valentines for her teachers. At least one teacher gives extra credit for chocolate, 2 points for chocolate, 3 for dark chocolate, and 5 for York Peppermint Patties. The less said about the grading scale the better. I did not check to see if my Middleschooler managed to include Nathan, that other boy, or that other other boy in the list of \”teachers\” needing Valentines.

    Homemade cakes for classroom parties? Not since forever here. Everything needs to be store bought lest we poison someone with botulism or a stray peanut. At least the district gives peanut allergies their do. If you have a doctor\’s note, your classroom is nut free and you can sit at the nut free table at lunch. NO, the building is not nut free. Asking parents for a doctor\’s diagnosis cut the peanut allergies more than 25%.

    1. With all due respect to St. Valentine, thank goodness there is all this for a MADE UP HOLIDAY! Gah.

      I\’d like to think that if Princess One were MY princess, this would be an opportunity for her to work on her coping skills. But that\’s probably only something I would say out loud once, and then mumble under my breath while I went to the dang store to get the dang York\’s Peppermint Patties (which are yummy, true).

      Interesting about the Doctor\’s note. We have a peanut-free school policy. Just forget about it, completely.

  4. What a fun post! I\’m always too nervous in my personal life to say what I really think about those overachieving moms. I never want to offend anyone! But the truth is, they tick me off. Mostly because I\’m just jealous that there are women with that much time on their hands to develop those cute and special treat-making skills.

    The first time my son didn\’t want to sign Valentine cards for school was 4th grade. I didn\’t make him. He came home with a bag of cards and candy, though he contributed nothing. I was so relieved I didn\’t have to deal with it any more that I didn\’t even feel bad. I knew some moms who wanted to send in stuff and have a party with the kids.

    My daughter held on longer, but even she realizes it\’s a bogus holiday.