Before I get started on what I currently think of Valentine's Day, let me provide some background on how I used to view the holiday when I was younger (before I got married and became a dad):
Valentine's Day for Single Women: From what I observed, Valentine's Day was by far the worst day of the year for them. I remember going to work, and all of the girls in relationships would receive flowers, chocolate, gifts, etc., from their boyfriends and husbands. Meanwhile, some (but not all) of the single women would spend the day rotating between being in tears and cyber-stalking their exes on MySpace (remember that?) or Facebook.
Valentine's Day for Women in Relationships: Valentine's Day was a great day for these ladies... as long as their significant others got the gifts right. If their friends received flowers or jewelry, while they received a Weight Watchers membership, it would quickly escalate into the worst day ever for them. It became a competition for who had the best and most thoughtful man, instead of a day for celebrating love.
Valentine's Day for Men in Relationships: I'm sure these men exist, but I've never met a dude who says he loves Valentine's Day. He may tolerate it -- he may even like it -- but the day I come across a guy who says, "OMG! I can't wait for Valentine's Day!! It's the best day EVERRRRRRRR!" will be the day I change my nickname from Daddy Doin' Work to the "Funky Fatherhood Brotha." Most of the guys I came across when I was younger hated Valentine's Day because it meant spending money on a lavish gift while knowing that you'd have to outdo your other male friends in relationships. Again, it became a silly and pointless competition.
Valentine's Day for Single Men: These guys were the exception to the rule. Back in the day, I remember my single male friends would go to bars and hit on the drunk single ladies in the hope that they'd score some digits. They'd always tell me that, other than Super Bowl Sunday, "Singles Night" on Valentine's Day was their favorite day of the year (for all of the wrong reasons).
Now that I'm an older, somewhat wiser married man who's doing my best to be a good, involved dad, my views on Valentine's Day have changed... slightly.
I still think it's the lamest holiday on the calendar by a long shot. Having corporations shame people into spending money on gifts and cheesy cards to show someone you already love that you love them just seems ridiculous to me. Whenever I see a Kay Jewelers commercial with its "Every Kiss Begins With Kay" slogan, I start to chuckle. I can't speak for all men, but every kiss in my household usually starts with me taking out the trash, changing a poopy diaper, or being a helpful dad or husband.
Stop that nonsense, Kay. Nobody's buying what you're selling (literally or figuratively).
However, I do feel differently about a few things.
Do any of you know the "PMC"? For the uninitiated, PMC stands for Perfect Married Couple, and they're the ones who never fight, spend every waking second telling each other how in love they are, and act as if EVERY DAY is Valentine's Day.
Yeah, I don't know a lot of those couples.
Wait, you know some PMCs? Really? Do they have children? As in young children who demand their attention every waking second of the day? That's what I thought.
I'm not saying PMCs don't exist; I'm just saying that I don't see very many of them. My wife and I aren't a Perfect Married Couple, and every day is not Valentine's Day to us. Hell, one night last week we made dinner, played with our kids, and passed out in bed without a kiss or an "I love you," simply because we were so damn exhausted from busting our asses at work and at home. On top of that, we argue about the typical things that most married couples argue about, and our lives revolve around doing whatever we can to give our daughters the best lives possible.
As parents, life just has a funny way of making adult romance more challenging, and that's hardly a newsflash for any of us. Diaper changes, Disney Jr., potty training, and Ring Around the Rosie are a lot of things -- but "sexy" is not one of them. If there's one positive thing about Valentine's Day, it's that it serves as a reminder to set aside some time for our spouses to rekindle that feeling of "boyfriend and girlfriend" or "husband and wife" instead of dad and mom -- and do it as often as possible during the year.
Drop your kids off with a family member for the evening so you and your spouse can enjoy some wild... um, "adult fun."
Relive your first date on a random Tuesday (take the kids if you don't think it would emotionally scar them for life).
Write a list of the reasons why you love your spouse and leave it in his/her pocket to read while at work (some may find this cheesy, but I don't).
Single parents, don't think for a second that I forgot about you. It's a great reminder to show you some love, too.
Write a list of the reasons why you love yourself (again, some may find this to be odd, but if you don't celebrate the love you have for yourself, who else will?).
Hire a babysitter so you can enjoy a fun evening with your friends.
Or just take some time to lie in bed and watch some bad television, if that's your thing.
As far as gift-giving is concerned, let me share a quick story with you:
When my twin brother and I were 10 years old, we took a walk into town the day prior to Valentine's Day. We only had $5 between us, and we really wanted to get our mom a gift. Then one of us (I don't remember who) had the bright idea to go into a local candy store named "Sweeties" and buy a lollipop for her that was probably a foot long in diameter. On the wrapper in big, bold letters it read, THE BIGGEST SUCKER IN TOWN. Guess what? After all of these years, my mom still has that lollipop and said she plans to keep it for as long as she's alive due to the gut-busting laughter she enjoyed when we proudly handed it to her. (We weren't trying to be funny, either. In the mind of two 10-year-old boys, who the hell wouldn't want the biggest sucker in the town?)
I hope that if you give a gift this year, you'll get the reaction that my mom had (not the gut-busting laughter part -- I'm referring to the everlasting memories). Hell, it only cost less than $5, but after all this time, she says it's one of the best gifts she ever received. Note: Mom, I know you're reading this, and I hope you have a sense of pride knowing that your boys have come a long way since then........ right?
If we can all find a way to remove ourselves from the parenting routine to do thoughtful things -- big or small -- to consistently demonstrate how much we love the people in our lives (instead of just on February 14th), then we'll finally eliminate Valentine's Day once and for all.
The next holiday on my hit list: Columbus Day.
This article originally appeared on The Good Men Project.