Nina In New York: Happy Valentine’s Day, I Made You This Nothing
A lighthearted look at news, events, culture and everyday life in New York. The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.
By Nina Pajak
Recently, I was perusing my Facebook feed when a sponsored post caught my attention. It was from a website that offers personalized invitations and custom printing, and the headline ran something like this:
ORDER YOUR CHILD’S PERSONALIZED VALENTINE’S DAY CARDS NOW!
It showed a variety of examples of cards featuring cute drawings or professional photos of your child in adorable designs, with wishes like “Happy Valentine’s Day! Love, Madison” and “Bee Mine! xoxo Carter.”
I stared at it for a few moments, trying to figure out the context in which a child would need his or her own custom printed Valentine’s Day cards. And then I realized: this is what kids hand out in school now. And then I cried a little and went on a 20-minute tirade about the good old days of gluing a doily to a piece of construction paper and what was the world coming to?
But really, what is the world coming to? I fully support the innovation of having kids bring in valentines for the whole class or no one, because eight-year-olds do not need to experience the sting of rejection and the bitterness this insipid holiday brings. Not yet. In elementary school, Valentine’s Day should be about candy and hearts and cupids and chocolate and GLUING STUPID DOILIES ONTO STUPID PIECES OF RED CONSTRUCTION PAPER. I simply don’t understand what a child gets out of having his or her parents order a full-bleed photo card with a pre-printed message to hand out to classmates, and I certainly don’t understand what the recipients of those cards get out of them. I’m assuming they pretty much instantly wind up at the bottom of backpacks soaking up spilled Juicy Juice or floating around on the classroom linoleum covered in dusty Keds prints. What an excellent way to spend $30.
Okay. It’s not like in my day some kids didn’t also buy their valentines at the card shop in packs of twelve. It’s entirely possible I did this at some point. But at least we still had to pick up a crayon and write something. And there’s humility in those. What kind of bratty way is this to operate? You should not have any use for custom digital printing until you are out of college, in my opinion.
Right. So, my tirade went something like that, except longer and angrier. As I was stewing and thinking about how in six years I will have to hand my kid a pack of colored paper, some doilies, safety scissors and a box of crayons and tell her to “get over it,” I realized that this is just the tip of the iceberg. This is just one grain of rice in a whole gumbo pot of crap I’m not going to like. This is another tiny metaphorical thing contained within a much, much larger metaphorical thing! Gah!
I have no idea what foreign landscape of modern day childhood lays before us. I assume most things are different now, since computers are ubiquitous in schools and can do more than draw a green circle in twenty-seven easy keyboard commands. I don’t even think kids carry backpacks anymore. I have three to five more years of relative peace, and then I’m going to be thrown into an unknown world which will probably nauseate me 80% of the time. And while there are frivolities I will not abide and some fights worth fighting, I expect that much of the time I’ll need to swallow my opinion and go with the flow lest my child become that kid who sits alone at lunch because she still uses a brown bag and not a melamine bento box (is this a thing? If it isn’t, you heard it here first). Also, I need to watch that I don’t become that mom who has a “when I was young” lecture for every new trend she encounters. For goodness sake, I’m only in my 30s.
I must steel myself now to make these sorts of tough decisions in spite of the grouchy old lady who lives inside me and grows stronger and louder by the day. I must think about what is best for my daughter not just using the way I grew up as the guideline. It’s not like it was that amazing back then. For instance, scrunchies. And furthermore, troll dolls. Tamagotchi! Pogs! Bicycle shorts! MMMBop! I feel calmer already.
Nina Pajak is a writer living with her husband, daughter and dog in Queens. Connect with Nina on Twitter!