Valentine's Day

Love, I see you there/ Adrift on the air/Floating by the open window.
-Sarah Harmer

Busy families often don’t pay much attention to Valentine’s Day, other than making sure school-aged children haven’t forgotten a classmate in the requisite card giving. If you have young children what your heart desires most is sleep. That’s unlikely to happen, and certainly not in the proportions you require to restore yourself to a state of feeling human. So... when your other half chooses, to your complete and utter surprise, to mark the day with an expression of love written on a note stuck to the steering wheel of your car it could almost make you giddy. Having spied it from ten feet away, I certainly was just that as I poured into my vehicle: coffee in one hand, work bags swinging awkwardly in the other, the dog jockeying for a position in the driver’s seat though he knew full well he was not going anywhere. I could not get myself sorted soon enough. Short and sweet in his distinctive handwriting, “Your left back tire needs air.”

Driving lopsided into town I wondered whether Valentine’s Day held any meaning at all beyond a retail opportunity bridging the time between Christmas and Easter.

It is an odd ritual that humans choose to marry, then in short order proceed to embark on the one project that is most likely to tear them apart: raising children. It’s a very stressful proposition. Add in illness, financial concerns, some differences in parenting values that neither party had sufficiently fleshed out and it’s no wonder divorce rates are 50%.

So maybe Valentine’s Day is a good time to re-evaluate your relationship with your spouse, and, more importantly, what that relationship looks like from the point of view of your children. Are you a united front? Or more like two frenetic electrons consistent only to the point of upholding the law of uncertainty? You might want to get a babysitter and give this some collective thought.

Tip #1: Do not go out to a public place on Valentine’s Day. You will be surrounded by well-rested, youthful couples who have considerably more time to devote to their appearance than you do and they will only make you feel frumpy and depressed. Either choose a secluded snowshoe or night ski (I have dibs on the skin up to the Boom), or pick another day to celebrate. February is dependable for a great number of powder days. Find a day to book off. If your date of choice is a movie and the bar, you might want to ask yourself why you prefer to hang out with your partner in places you can be neither seen nor heard.

By the time your children are six they have figured out the family dynamics and they can sense when their parents aren’t in sync in their decisions. Debbie Pincus from *Empowering Parents presents the following scenario and suggestion:

“When it’s time to do his homework, your son says he ‘stinks at math’ and complains about his teacher. Your husband yells at him and says that he needs to bring up his math grade. Instead of answering, your child looks at you for help. You jump in and say, ‘Get off his back – he’s doing fine.’ Your husband replies, ‘If he was doing fine he would have gotten a better score.’ Now the fight is ramping up. You respond with, ‘You’re too strict – that’s why he’s like this, because you’re too hard on him.’ Meanwhile, your child, conveniently, keeps watching TV.

“Arrive in the same place. Find a way to arrive in the same place on how to proceed with your child. Be aware that your fights over how to raise your children are disturbing to your kids. Children don’t like to see their parents not getting along, and these battles can have long-term effects. Understand also that every time you argue with your mate over parenting, the focus shifts away from your child. Rather than teaching your child how to behave and problem solve, the focus instead becomes parent against parent. Back one another up in the moment, even if you don’t fully agree. Later, when things are calm, you can discuss better ways of handling the situation with your spouse.

“If you and your spouse really are on different pages on something and neither person can get to the other side of the issue, then the parent who feels more passionately about it might make the call.”

In our case, my husband does 70% of the parenting, so I will defer to him. If you are not going to be around to deal with consequences, perhaps supporting your partner is more important than getting your way.