Raising Driftless Kids

Ah, February, the mid-point to winter. While our January hikes have been an intriguing combination of icy and muddy, which fills our children with curiosity, we are starting to get a little sick of bundling up and yearn for green outside our windows.
However, this month I’m not featuring a discussion about getting kids outside to play in the winter weather. I’m going to focus on the candy-filled, crafty event that Valentine’s Day has become.
When I was in elementary school, part of the fun of Valentine’s was going downtown to the drug store and selecting a cardboard box of valentines featuring the cartoon character du jour. Sure, there were other kids in the class who had the same cards, but it was always fun seeing which picture or saying was selected for you. I don’t remember affixing candy to valentines back then, but I do recall class parties that were off the charts with baked goods. I definitely consumed my fair share of cupcakes topped with saccharine pink frosting and juju hearts.
I successfully persuaded my kiddos to go store-bought once for Valentine’s. It was lovely. It was easy. I even made them write their classmates’ names. I was winning at the mom game.
But I’ve done something to myself — something I fear may be irreversible. I’ve forever cursed myself with more time-consuming valentine preparations. My children have decided that home-made valentines are better.
I introduced my 9-year-old to Pinterest when we were searching for a recipe one day. Of course, she’s also seen me utilize the service for birthday party planning. Last year she realized that we could seek inspiration for valentines on the overwhelming website of parental ambition and shame.
So, I’m mentally preparing myself for what kind of glue-sticked, googly eyed art projects this non-crafty mom is going to be supervising.
As an allergy mom, I give props to the Pinterest posts about non-candy Valentine’s. But, as a mom who has a serious issue with the accumulation of little plastic whatnots that seem to constantly make their way home with my children, I have to ask — can we not?
There are other routes to take. I’d like to please encourage parents to consider consumables. If you’re not doing candy, there are other options: fruit snacks (yeah, they’re basically candy), pencils, bubbles, bookmarks and friendship bracelets are all consumable; and they are all things that kiddos love. In theory they will get used or worn without becoming yet another piece of plastic in a bin.
Let’s make a deal: Store-bought or handmade, let’s just do each other a favor and not judge one way or another. It’s all hard work, money and time.
Chances are we’re going homemade this year. And if that happens, I can tell you that my kiddos are doing the work. It’ll be done with a lot of love, but it probably won’t be Pinterest Perfect. And there will probably be candy involved.

Ainsley Rowe Anderson is a mom of three whose roots run deep in the Driftless Area mineral districts of Wisconsin and Illinois. She is the co-owner of Driftless Kids in Mineral Point and shares her thoughts on raising children in the Driftless in this space on a rotating basis with other columnists focused on education and kids.