Confession: I used to be good at Valentine’s Day. I spent a lot of time finding the perfect flowers, the perfect restaurant, the perfect outfit, the perfect box of candy, the perfect… everything. Now that I’m older though I don’t put nearly as much effort into it. In fact, in some ways it’s kind of a pain in the ass. I don’t hate Valentine’s Day like a lot of people I know (“It’s a made-up corporate holiday, man!”), but it’s a very different thing today than it was in my younger days.

Before you feel too bad for Heather you should know a couple things. The first is that she’s been the beneficiary of my best Valentine’s Day efforts – eight years ago I surprised her with Rigby, and the next year I popped the question!

Engagement night/ Valentine’s Day 2005

The second thing you should know is that Heather is probably even less enthusiastic about Valentine’s Day these days than I am.

Our mutual lack of enthusiasm was no more evident than during our trip to Target earlier in the week. We were in the toy section, buying a birthday present for our nephew, when we decided we should probably get Annie a little something for Valentine’s Day.  When I spotted a Doc McStuffins doll that came with Lambie and a bunch of medical accessories, I thought it was perfect (since Annie is a Doc McStuffins freak), but then Heather checked the price tag and saw it was forty dollars.

“We are not getting that,” Heather said. “After Christmas and her birthday Annie has plenty of toys.”

“I know,” I said. “It’s just that it’s perfect for her.”

“You want to spend forty dollars? You wouldn’t even spend that much on me for Valentine’s Day!”

“I would if I found a present as perfect as that for you.”

Heather rolled her eyes, then suddenly looked worried. “Wait. We’re not getting each other gifts, right?”

“Nope,” I replied.

“Oh, good,” Heather said, relieved.

Just then I noticed a teenage girl with her hand jammed into her boyfriend’s back pocket looking on, horrified. For a second I was tempted to say something like, “Drink it in, Sweetie. This is the future!” But I didn’t. I think we’d disturbed the kid enough as it is.

Here’s the thing, though… when you’ve been together a long time (this is our eleventh Valentine’s Day) and have kids to care for and bills to pay, you don’t relish the idea of dropping a bunch of money just because a holiday expects you to prove your love to each other. We know we love each other, and have more important things to spend our money on.

Lest that seem too cynical, I should mention that we are going to celebrate Valentine’s Day… just a couple days later. This is something we started doing a couple years ago to avoid the Valentine’s Day crowds and restaurant mark-ups. This year, for example, we are going to have a nice dinner date on Saturday night, and we’re both really looking forward to it. Our celebrations may be a bit stripped down these days, but we still enjoy using Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to focus on each other and our relationship… just without all the bells, whistles, and overpriced Teddy Bears.

jumping for Rigby

If there is one thing that might bring back the old Valentine’s Day pro in me, it’s Annabel. This year she understands what Valentine’s Day is, and is really excited about it. Every day she wakes up and asks, “Is it Valentine’s Day yet?” Since today IS Valentine’s Day, I ran out to the store yesterday and got some candy, cards, and even a little Teddy Bear. (Don’t tell Heather, but I may have even bought her some candy, too!)

Maybe that would have been a more honest version of the future for the teenage girl at Target to see – one where our whole family celebrates the love we share on Valentine’s Day together.