Valentine’s Day: From Box of Chocolates to Box of Tissues

12 stages of Valentine’s Day celebrations

1. Your teenage years 

Nothing. Nothing will happen. You are sure that everyone has a boyfriend or girlfriend beside you. Your frenemy will be treated to a promposal-worthy display of affection outside the school cafeteria, wherein they will be showered with roses and “Will You Go Out With Me?” signs. You will go home and have dinner with your parents, knowing nothing romantic will ever happen to you. There may be tears.

Here is how Valentine’s Day gets better and better. (Shutterstock)

2. TwentySomething and unattached 

At this point, you will begin discussing how Valentine’s Day is a made-up holiday fueled by consumerism. Instead of pining after crushes, there will be college parties or epic hangouts with friends. A romantic occurrence may happen. If it does, you’ll laugh about the irony of your Valentine’s Day hookup.

3. Your first serious relationship

Torn between the desire for romance, the allure of that snarky anti-consumerism mindset, and the fact that you are broke, your Valentine’s Day will be a muted affair. You’ll convince yourselves that eating nachos at home will become an adorable tradition. You’ll do this every year! It’s romantic. Right?

4. After the first child is born 

You are GOING OUT on Valentine’s Day. You haven’t been on a date in five months, and it is happening tonight. Maybe you’ll bring the baby in hopes they’ll sleep through the meal (they won’t). Maybe you’ll pay exorbitant Feb 14th babysitter rates. Maybe you’ll pump breastmilk in the bathroom after the appetizer course. Maybe you’ll even have a good time. It doesn’t matter. You won’t remember it.

5. After the second child is born 

You are GOING OUT on Valentine’s Day! You haven’t been out since last Valentine’s Day, although you don’t remember where you went or what you ate. There is no way you are bringing the kids with you. You’ll pay several hundred dollars for a babysitter and movie tickets. You’ll fall asleep ten minutes into the movie. It’s a pretty good night.

6. When your oldest is a kindergartener

You spend the preceding day buying those little cards for your kids to tear apart and stuff into envelopes. The afternoon of Valentine’s Day, as you curl your hair or hunt for any dress that might fit, you also have to console your child, who is embarrassed that all the other kids gave out candy with their cards. You resolve to buy candy next year.

7. When your oldest is a first-grader 

You spend the preceding day affixing old Halloween candy to Valentine’s Day cards because you forgot to buy candy.

8. The elementary school years 

This could be the sweet spot. These could be the years you and your partner will go to jazz bars, comedy clubs, or exciting restaurants. These could be the years of reconnecting and reflecting on those last ten or fifteen years. Or you could spend the whole night making passive-aggressive comments about the lack of work your partner does around the house.

9. After the divorce 

You return to the TwentySomethingAndUnattached mindset, except without the college parties, epic hangouts, or random hookups. Things end much as they did during your teenage years. Nothing happens, and the day may or may not end in tears.

10. When your kids are in high school 

Valentine’s Day becomes terrifying. You don’t want your kids to be brokenhearted. You also don’t want them to have a significant other with whom they will make poor life choices. You wish you could go back to when the biggest Valentine’s Day crisis was not having the right candy taped to those princess cards.

11. When your kids are out of high school

This is even worse because you have no idea what your kids are up to. They don’t return your casual text messages on February 15th. You hope they are still alive.

12. Grandparent era 

You will be enlisted to watch the baby. You ponder hiring a babysitter for the grandkid so you and your significant other can go out. Instead, you take the baby with you. She’ll sleep through dinner. It’ll be the best Valentine’s Day ever.

More Great Reading:

Valentine’s Day Gift Guide For Teens: 20 Gifts Under $25 (2023)

About Jenna Vandenberg

Jenna Vandenberg is a high school teacher, a mom of two, and a writer. She frequently writes for Western Art and Architecture, Cricket publications, and parenting magazines in Seattle like Seattle’s Child and ParentMap.

Read more posts by Jenna

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