The Playroom: Valentine’s Day

Author: Maraya Steadman '89, '90MBA

Maraya Steadman

I am a mother of young children, and I think Valentine’s Day can be annoying. It requires too many crafts and too much frosting. One of the biggest annoyances is the peanut-free school Valentine’s Day party, which necessitates 78 valentines I have to come up with for my kids to distribute at school so other mothers can throw them away.

Neither my kids or me have any interest in making 78 valentines, so we end up buying them at the grocery store. And my kids don’t get it. They don’t get this entire Valentine’s Day thing. The fact that my 5-year old has to buy Bakugan Valentine’s Day cards, and he doesn’t get to keep a single one, is more love and generosity than he can handle. And this results in me, once again, yelling in the grocery store aisles.

After establishing for the third time that no, the Bakugan cards were for his friends and not for him, in one of those parenting moments that makes me wonder if my son will ever give a hoot about anyone other than himself, he decides that if the cards are for the other children then they can get Hot Wheels, defeating the entire premise of celebrating St. Valentine, because I am quite sure a martyr would have bought his friends the Bakugan cards.

My yelling gets me agitated and makes me feel bad. I look up from my disgruntled kids and see another mother I recognize with a harried look frantically darting down the candy aisle. Then I notice a father of a high school girl yelling at her in the Hallmark card section, but all this miserable company doesn’t help me feel any better.

I am in the grocery store, and I’m angry. This isn’t what it’s supposed to be about, this Valentine’s Day thing. It’s supposed to be about love and sending greetings to people you care about, who you want to know you care about them. I find myself feeling worn out and frumpy about something that is supposed to be fun and beautiful.

Then, I feel like I am not grateful enough, not enjoying the sheer joy of living and celebrating my life and all that is really amazing about being in the grocery store with my kids, shopping for Valentines for their school party. The gifts of children, friendship, education and the prosperity to buy candy and cards for other people.

So in the car on the way home, I decide to bring myself back to center, and I start to meditate a little on everything that is good and right in my world, and I make up a prayer and it went something like this.

Okay, God, that didn’t go so well. I would like to be more grateful for all the gifts in our lives.

I am truly grateful for the financial security that allows us to live in this great neighborhood, to shop in the stores, and to bake and purchase peanut-free treats for others.

I am grateful for the health of my children who are able to celebrate this day, and for the love of all of their friends who will celebrate with them.

And I am grateful that when Emma threw up three times in the check-out line, she only threw up all over me and on herself. I can only imagine how disgusting it would have been if she had hit the conveyor belt or the candy display.

I am also grateful that in more than eight years of parenting, this is the first time any of my children has thrown up all over me in the check-out line at the grocery store.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

Maraya Steadman, who lives in a Chicago suburb, is a stay-at-home mother of three children. She can be reached at