My memories of Valentine’s day as a child are not positive ones. My mother always made sure that we had a card for everyone in our class and with four kids this was no easy task for her. She did this for a number of reasons, mainly though it was because of what had happened to my younger brother one year. In his class of around 25 to 30 children, he received one Valentine’s Day card. It not only broke my brother’s heart, but it broke my mother’s too.
My brother was born with a cleft palette so he looked different, looking different forty-five odd years ago was not a good thing and he was teased a lot. His cleft palette also added a lisp when he spoke thus requiring speech therapy (our other younger sibling copied the way our brother spoke, so he too ended up having speech therapy). The cleft palette needed numerous operations over the years, then he lost his hearing in one of his ears (due to an infection during one of his hospital stays) requiring more surgeries. So receiving one card at school in front of children who didn’t want to be your friend was at the time, the end of the world.
When my kids started elementary school I explained to them my reasons for always writing out cards to every single child in their class, friend or not. I would ask them how they would feel if they received only one card, because there were and sadly still teachers who allow this to happen. Of course you may ask how can they stop it? Well you could ban the practice of giving out Valentine’s Day cards, but I’m sure that would not go over well with some. Then there are parents who maybe can’t afford to buy cards for everyone and worse yet, there are parents who will say my child doesn’t like so and so, so I will not make him/her write a card out for that person. Whatever the reason is, we as adults should not allow it to happen.
When one of my children did not like someone in their class we would always talk about why? If they said that child was mean, we would try to figure out the reasons. Sometimes, I explained that a child may be a bully because they are unhappy at home, or their parents were bullies and they learned that behaviour from them. Now I am no saint nor are my children, who is for that matter, but I have always tried to let my children see the other side of the coin.
So when Valentine’s Day arrives this year, as adults let us try to make it a positive experience for every child in the classroom.