BUSY IN BRISTOW: Can’t Buy Me Love

| February 8, 2015 | 0 Comments | Busy in Bristow

busyinbristow-1Back before we had kids, Husband and I celebrated some Valentine’s Day doozies. I knew where all the good dinner specials were in town: Ruby Tuesdays – affordable with wine but without panache, Panini and Carmello’s – the Manassas gold standard, and City Square Café – always creative with their menu: we had Cornish game hens there.

After dinner, I’d choose a romantic comedy at Regal which was then Hoyts, and afterwards, there may, or may not have been, dancing candlelight at home.

But once you have kids, Valentine’s Day, like most days, is for them which makes it less about fine cuisine, leisure, and lovemaking and more about cupcakes, crafts, and collapsing from sheer exhaustion.

When ours were in preschool, I got out the stack of construction paper and my scrapbooking tools. Together, we made 15 hearts, I wrote a witty message on one side, they scrawled their names on the other side and we checked their classmates’ names off the list Teacher had given us.

As our family grew, my expectations lowered, and we trotted off to Target together to choose boxes of store bought valentines grateful to the primary school edict that cards just be cards without the attachments of candy, toys, or pencils.

For the past few years, I’ve stolen away by myself to the 50 percent off rack after V-Day, stockpiled boxes, and come late January of the following year, told the kids to whip through those suckers early and fast. We’ve got other things to do around here. Chop Chop.

What is it about the kids growing up that takes some of that old excitement away? For example, instead of racing to sign up for the class party like I used to, I find myself muttering that I brought something to the last two, never mind that one time it was the coveted napkins and the other time, my “fruit platter” consisted solely of sliced apples.

Red tablecloths, heart confetti and cupcakes with sugary icing just don’t make me go gaga the way they used to. Or maybe I lack enthusiasm because my kids just aren’t as pumped up as they used to be.

This change in emotional timbre may mean it’s time for Husband and me to reclaim our old greeting card manufactured holiday.

But now that we’re socking money away in 529’s and trying to get one more year out of our 10-year-old minivan, paying for an overpriced dinner doesn’t appeal to me. Plus, the novelty’s worn off. We’ve been married almost 18 years now and have gone to just about every local restaurant for Valentine’s Day. Unless you’ve got two tickets to gay Paris in that bag of yours, keep on walking because I rather like my comfortable couch and playing Double Jeopardy, thank you very much.

This year, we might sneak out to see a movie, but it won’t be Fifty Shades. On principle, I refuse to spend my hard earned cash on tickets to a movie based on subjugation fantasies. And no, I didn’t read the book. A friend of mine who shall remain nameless insisted I read a passage. Even if I liked dime store “romance,” and could work my way through the prerequisite Catholic guilt, the writing – on a sentence level – was unbearable for my literary tastes.

No, I think we might see American Sniper or Fox Catcher instead.

And this year, instead of paying for an expensive dinner AND a full price sitter, Oldest Son will be watching his siblings for us.

Now that we have a newly minted teenager, going out has become decidedly less complicated and less expensive … at about the same time I don’t care much if we go out at all.

We know we need to enjoy this window now, though, before Oldest Son’s social calendar takes off. Early signs of it come through his texts: the girls want him to meet up for a movie, for dinner, for a basketball game. He’ll be driving a car in fewer than three years.

The irony is I now find myself more like one half of the old married couple we see on sitcoms … unlike the frenzied woman of yesteryear who wasn’t sure whether she was coming or going (although it’s still something I say for affect) rushing past her husband like a piece of furniture. I find I’m grateful for the things that used to bore me, and I find things that used to excite me are rather boring.

Perhaps I’ve lost my excitement for Valentine’s Day because it’s a holiday in limbo for our family. Our children are no longer little, and we have moved beyond our cupcake infatuation to the real work of love.

See, the chubby legged years were great, and I miss them – I do – but these years are truly special – our kids are old enough now to want to pull away but young enough not to.

Maybe it’s that simple realization that makes me content to co-opt this once “couples” day for family time in our pajamas on the couch with the kids piled ‘round.

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