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Be my Valentine

February 14, 2010

Last week we went to the mall to help our 13-year-old pick out a special Valentine’s Day gift for his new girlfriend. I, being the practical one, was trying to coerce him into thinking logically about his budget and the fact that he’d been “going out” with this girl for just two weeks. Knowing that his monthly income consists of an allowance that calculates to half his age every week — and taking into consideration that the value of the Valentine’s Day gift he wanted to buy was 10% of his current bank balance– I felt compelled to offer my opinion on the subject.

First I told him that it was simply my opinion and that it was his money to spend, but that he should think carefully about spending such a large amount of money on a girl he has just started dating. I did the whole “it’s the thought that counts,” “she’ll love whatever you buy her, “a homemade gift is a gift from the heart,” ….etc…I poured it on in hopes that he would see that he was making a terrible mistake.

Then I looked at my husband, who was giving me the evil eye and shaking his head at me. Clearly he was not happy with my tactics, and I got the immediate sense that I was on my own here. Normally, in child-raising, we’ve been on the same page, but it was clear that I was up the creek and he was not going to be throwing me a paddle. Given the opportunity–while my son was talking to the clerk at Heltzberg Diamonds about the heart necklaces in the front showcase–I asked my husband what was up.

“You’re taking the fun out of this for him,” he said, or something like that. He reminded me, point blank, that this was very special to our son. His first “real” girlfriend. His first Valentine’s Day WITH a girlfriend, and I was ruining it. Didn’t I remember what it was like to be a kid on Valentine’s Day? Had I “lost that loving feeling?” But I remember. I remember it very well.

I remember how excited I was in 4th grade when a boy in my class gave me a candy heart that read “Be Mine.” I kept it in the pocket of my jeans for a week, taking it out every now and then to run my fingers over the words etched into the tiny candy. I would have had it longer if my mother hadn’t scooped up my jeans from the floor when I was sleeping and tossed them AND my sweet Valentine into the washing machine.

I remember pouring out the paper bag filled Valentine’s Day cards onto my bed after getting home from school each year and reading and re-reading the words, “I think you’re Purrr-fect” I’m Bananas over you!” and “Be My Valentine.”

I remember getting my first red rose in the 8th grade and wishing it would last forever (I may even have the dried rose petals tucked away in a moving box!). And of course, there’s my first “real” Valentine’s Day gift: It was a tiny silver heart, given to me in the 9th grade by Jeff,  the cutest boy I had ever met, and my first love.  And I remember that euphoric feeling on Valentine’s Day when I lifted my long blonde hair and he put that necklace around my neck. The earth stopped turning and I thought my heart would beat out of my chest. I never took that necklace off. It was the most beautiful silver heart I had ever seen.

I look back at my son, who at 6-feet-tall seems older than his 13 years as he stands there pointing at one necklace after another. I could see that he was slightly nervous, his face a little flushed as he talks to the salesman about each of the necklaces he’d picked out.

“You’re a girl, so which one do you like, Mom?” he asks me.

This was my second chance to get this right, so I said, “I think they are all very pretty. Which one do you think she would like?”

He tells me how she likes pink and that he thought the heart was too big on the one chain. I just let him talk, and I listen. There was one that he liked, but he was still unsure so I suggested another store, telling him that I wanted him to really love the one he chose for his girlfriend. He told me more about the things she liked and that he wanted to be sure that the necklace was good quality (cute), and how excited he was to surprise her.

He found the perfect gift–a tiny heart necklace with diamonds and pink stones. And I could see his shoulders rise, his face beaming with joy. And I was so proud of him that moment, for not listening to me!  And grateful I was given a second chance to be part of the experience.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. February 14, 2010 6:30 pm

    Gwen, I so appreciate this little ditty. Your four children had reaped the benefits of a mom who clearly listens to them, as you listen to your heart. Your boy has values that have no doubt been imbued by you, or inherited by genetics. No matter. I’m so glad you had the chance to celebrate this first with him.

    My younger daughter who is not married to the guy she’s with yet, couldn’t wait till today to give her flowers and candy, so last light, after a lovely dinner and a concert of their favorite music, he pulled out the goodies from the trunk of his car and told her his love couldn’t wait. Don’t know what today, the actual Valentine’s Day will bring for them, but they are so happy together….It’s a parent’s best benefit and sometimes, sheer luck, to see their children thrive.

    My girls pick their men all by themselves. Not by my standards. And I think they’ve done well. I know you have started out with the same experience and I so happy for you.



  2. February 14, 2010 6:34 pm

    Thanks Linda! Sometimes we just have to take a step back. Remember how it felt to be 13 or 17…it’s easy to expect our kids to do things OUR WAY, and I guess they will, when they are OLD like I am ! It’s also easy to forget that feeling of young love. I’m glad I have kids to remind me of those memories.

  3. February 17, 2010 10:30 pm

    Hi Gwen,

    What a great story. I really enjoyed how you wove the narrative together and tied it up neat and pretty like a Valentine’s gift for a sweetheart!

    How do you find the time to do it all – Sage marketing manager, mother of 4, wife, writer?!? It makes me tired thinking about it!

    Keep up the great work. I’ll be sure to check in on your blog for future posts!


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