Celebrating Love and Valentine’s Day with Our Children in 2021

Here we are. We have made it to February, the time of year jam-packed with candy conversation hearts and romantic love. Who could have imagined last year, as we perused the pink teddy bear aisle at Target, that the 2021 version of Valentine’s Day would involve trying to stay as far away as humanly possible from others? Turns out, the presence of a highly contagious virus, transmitted via nose and mouth particles, really cuts down on the kissing and hugging!

We are almost a year in to this pandemic. We’ve handled homeschool, managed virtual work schedules, maintained months of social distancing, and re-imagined holiday traditions like the true bosses we are (at least that’s what I keep telling myself over and over again). At this point, we might as well add ONE more holiday to the mix, and Valentine’s Day is the celebration which deserves the biggest overhaul of all.

For one, pushing romantic gestures on children feels really icky, and always has. There are so many ways to teach our children the true meaning of love, and asking a child if they have a boyfriend or girlfriend to shower with over-the-top stuffed animals is not it, AT ALL. Even as an adult, the idea of grand displays feels wildly inauthentic. Stuff does not equal love. Immature concepts of romanticism also do not equate to adoration. Somehow, somewhere, we have gone astray.

I am imploring all of us this year to think differently when it comes to the word “love,” especially when we model it to our children. We have witnessed more accounts of hate and divisive rhetoric this past year than any of us can stomach. I hope that 2021 is a year in which Valentine’s Day can pivot to a more inclusive state of mind.

Let’s ditch the trinkets and instead tell our children and demonstrate on a continual basis that…

  • Showing empathy and compassion for others is LOVE
  • Genuine friendship is LOVE
  • Being inclusive is LOVE
  • Accepting and celebrating others for their differences is LOVE
  • Standing up to hate is LOVE
  • Not tolerating abhorrent behavior is LOVE
  • Vowing to listen more than talk is LOVE
  • Learning to think before reacting is LOVE
  • Allowing people to feel heard and seen is LOVE
  • Trying to do what is right, even when we fail is LOVE
  • Helping one another be better is LOVE

Valentine’s Day can be so much more than what it has historically represented. The intention is there, it simply needs a refinement, a tune up, to adjust to our modern world. I am optimistic it will help to soften so many of us.

So on Sunday, February 14th, let’s vow to ignore the comments section and instead snuggle up with a big bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter Hearts (the only candy truly worth giving or receiving) and have a meaningful conversation with our kids about understanding and kindness. They have been sorely lacking not only this past year, but for a very, very long time.

Then we can make a big dinner of heart-shaped homemade pizza and discuss what it means to show love and feel love. The holiday should be a reminder to continue (or begin) our everyday efforts of consideration and humanity. It begins at home, and little by little it seeps out, into our schools, our neighborhoods and communities. Small acts lead to bigger ones. We all deserve better. We all deserve love.

And finally, after we have washed down those heart-shaped sprinkle cookies, we can finish the night with a bow and arrow NERF war the way that weird Cupid baby always intended! Even though we may be choosing a different way to celebrate Valentine’s Day this year, those kids still need to know who is boss!

Kristin Ruthstrom
Kristin is a Lee’s Summit suburb transplant, after living in the Brookside and Plaza areas for over eight years. Raising three young boys with her husband, Jake, has helped her to embrace the messy, wild side of life where love is expressed in bear hugs and body slams. Professionally, she can be found teaching classes as an adjunct professor in the areas of Business, Marketing and PR. She is able to provide her students with applicable, real-life knowledge as she draws from several years working in the corporate sector. “Free time” (ha!, what's that again?) is spent on an occasional date night to favorite local restaurants, reading blogs on everything from home design to politics, riding her sweet beach cruiser bike and thinking of ways to convince her husband to do yet another home improvement project.