The Year Without a Valentine


I’m experiencing fourth grade at a new school through the eyes of my 10-year-old boy. And it isn’t always pretty.

He’s feeling Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing most days when he rolls into the passenger seat in the afternoon car line. I try logic. As in, “They say you’re disgusting? Why? Your breath doesn’t stink. Your clothes are clean. You wash your hands more than any of them.” His dad hears the tales and just says, “Sometimes girls are just mean.”

My heart skips a beat. Mean girls? At our school?

I’ve visited that class before and I picture those girls in my mind. They didn’t look like mean girls. So what’s a mama to do when the note comes home in February?

Valentines may be exchanged only if you send one for each student.

What’s a mama to do when her child lives in a black or white, all or nothing world? What’s a mama to do when her child says,

“Then I’m not doing Valentines.”

I chose to let him choose. We’re both growing. And so on Friday afternoon before Valentine’s weekend when he gets in the car with that extra white bag, I ask the question.

“Got Valentines?”

And of course, the answer is “yes.” Because, really, even mean girls aren’t mean enough to give up Valentine’s Day.

But my son’s answer isn’t just “yes.” His answer is, “Yes, but they’re not real ones.”

These are not real Valentines.
These are not real Valentines.

And I want to be sad. I really do. I want to begin to comfort him.

But there’s no need.

Because he’s not sad.

He is perfectly fine.

And so I’m trying to be. I’m trying to realize that he’s not me, that different things matter to different people, and that it’s OK to have a year without a Valentine.

What do you do when your child figures out a bit of reality? Do you go with the flow or do you resist?

Because frankly, there’s no telling how much Valentine’s may cost me next year when everything changes and there’s a whole classroom of nice girls.

The same girls.

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Melanie McGehee never knew she wanted to be a mom. Even marriage caught her somewhat by surprise, in spite of the fact that she met husband Andy through a matchmaking service. She thanked eharmony by writing about that experience for an anthology, A Cup of Comfort for Women in Love. Almost two years to the day after marrying him, she stared at two pink lines and wondered aloud, “Is this okay?” His response, “Kind of late to be asking that now.” It was a bit late – in life. But at the advanced maternal age of 35, she delivered by surprise at 35 weeks and an emergency C-section, a healthy baby boy. Ian, like Melanie, is an only child. She’s written much about him during her years with the blog, but he’s now a teenager. Please, don’t do the math. It’s true. Momming in middle age is the best!


  1. Bless his heart. Being the New Kid is so tough. I was only the New Kid once, but some of those Mean Girl incidents (and yes, all the ugly incidents were precipitated by girls) still stick with me. I didn’t realize it at the time, but they were very valuable life lessons. I didn’t enjoy experiencing them, but I wouldn’t change them. With perspective, they say more about the perpetrators than they do about me. Give him a hug and hang in there. You’re right – by this time next year, it will likely be a completely different story.


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