The Best Valentine’s Day (So Far)

Nothing says romance quite like taking a tween boy shopping for new pants because he’s grown 2.5 inches since Christmas Day.


We’re not big Valentine’s Day celebrators. That’s true. But taking a tween shopping felt like maybe the antithesis of love. Tween parenting is odd in and of itself. One day we’re the coolest, the next we’re the worst. I remember that, but being on the flip side feels like someone poking at the soft parts of my heart.

But the kid needed pants. Our schedules have been a little bit crazy as of late, so getting out of town and to an actual shopping plaza has been more of a challenge than usual. I couldn’t just order him clothing online either as I legit had no idea what size to order the quickly growing kid. I needed him to try pieces on and provide actual feedback for fit and length.

While I’m on the topic: Clothing boys is the worst. Not only is it all ugly and virtually impossible to find, but the sizing across brands is RI.DIC.U.LOUS. RIDICULOUS. Old Navy XL is too short. Nike L is too tight but long enough. Kohls’ tech brand L fits length wise but falls off his waist. Brands, please get your act together. It would be great if one size matched across all brands. Not only would it be life-changing for parents but it would result in more money in brands’ pockets as I could easily log on and buy, buy, buy.

Anyway, hanging out in the boys’ department on Valentine’s Day wasn’t all that bad.

I got some really great deals, even though we had to visit a total of three stores. While I felt aggravated at the lack of overall selection, I found some things we all liked. Additionally, I was greeted with a very grateful man-child who thanked me a number of times over the night.

Afterward, we hit up the new IHOP, stopped in at GameStop to let them spend some of their money, and finished it off with evening coffees for the grownups at Starbucks. Maybe someday my husband and I will go out again—alone—on Valentine’s Day like that first date after our youngest son was born. I consumed my first alcoholic drink since prior to getting pregnant and that margarita nearly put me under the table. In the meantime, an evening of laughs and waffles and smiling boys feels like a good deal to me.

Quite honestly, this ranks as the best Valentine’s Day in a long time. Winning.

An Accidental Valentine’s Day Date: I Love Your Love

Last night, we accidentally went on a date on Valentine’s Day.

An Accidental Valentine's Day Date

We don’t do Valentine’s Day for reasons. Important reasons like one year we simply decided we didn’t want to celebrate it, so we didn’t. And it stuck. We don’t buy cards or gifts. We don’t expect cards or gifts. We do buy the boys cards and gifts, but it remains Not a Big Deal. We don’t hate the day, but it’s just not our thing.

So imagine the two of us last night, accidentally on a date because the grandparents took the children. We decided to use a gift card we got for Christmas, finding ourselves waiting in a crowded lobby with a potential hour and a half wait time with a bunch of other people actively and actually celebrating their love.

It was the perfect time to people watch, one of our favorite past times.

At one point, we wanted to join a table of six. People of various ages surrounded the table, but the star shining in the center of it all was an older woman. We decided she was telling the best stories, her hands constantly moving and her face alive with the light that only comes with having lived through it all. Were they celebrating a birthday or another family event — or had they just taken great-grandma out for Valentine’s Day?

An older man backed up to the half wall next to us and pulled his wife in close. They exchanged quiet talk in a language I didn’t know and couldn’t pick up on. They shared lots of discussion before deciding to go wait at the bar.

A dad in a Steelers jacket and hat stood with his wife and daughter. I don’t think he ever stopped smiling.

A teenage boy in a varsity jacket held the hand of his brunette girlfriend the whole way to their table, even though the large group of people and the angle of the tables made it difficult to do so. It made me think back to Valentine’s Day in high school, the importance of holding hands, of not letting go. When do we lose that?

A young Mennonite woman stood next to a young man, the space between them much wider than the space between any other couple in the restaurant waiting area. They did not look at each other; they did not share a word. Her dress was a pale, pale pink. I imagined she chose it for this special outing.

Eventually we were seated in a coveted little corner both, far from the hungry crowd and the squeak of the front door. We only waited 45 minutes as many people bailed on the wait, some with attitude and some quietly. We sat across from each other, but not before I noticed the couple at the table near us. An older couple, they both sat on the same side of the table, elbows and hips touching. Both dressed in red, they talked quietly as they finished their meal. They spoke so kindly to the waiter, causing me to smile. They struggled to get their coats on and eventually walked slowly toward the door. I hoped they got home safely, the snow starting to fall. Again.

Now it was our turn, to talk about life and family and work and the spaces in between where everything overlaps. We shared an appetizer, ate our meal in that back corner booth. We shared jokes and bites of steak. We ate too much, we laughed a lot. We eventually struggled into our own coats and made our way home, safely.

Quite honestly, the whole evening was enjoyable. I loved watching the various forms of love all around me — families, couples, young, and old — and, of course, our own.