Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Masterpiece Of Love

I expect every preschool teacher brought home a stash like this on Friday:

When the children arrived at school on Thursday and Friday, their first stop, even before taking off their coats and washing their hands, was in the gym where they found all of their friends "Valentine's pockets" arrayed and ready for distribution.

They entered the classroom abuzz, many of them chattering about the Valentine they'd put in my pocket.

We then went about our day as normal until our closing circle when I tried to get them wound up in anticipation of getting their now full "pockets" and heading home. My first year teaching we all went through our Valentines together in the classroom, but after the initial excitement, the little notes of love were scattered all over the place, and the overall vibe descended into battles over which belonged to whom. Not what one wants for Valentine's Day. Since then I've made a big deal about them waiting at least until they're in their cars before opening them.

I said, ". . . and then you get to go into the gym and get YOUR VALENTINES!"

My announcement in both classes (Pre-3's and 3-5's) was met with a cacophony of little voices telling me not about the Valentines they were about the receive, but about the ones they had given. Nice.

Since Chinese New Year begins today as well, I gave each of the kids red envelopes (lai sees in Cantonese) in which I inserted hearts saying "I Love You" on one side. On the other I wrote "Happy New Year" and affixed a shiny good luck penny.

When I got home I went through my own collection of Valentines. Having been a parent on the manufacturing end of the process, I have no judgments about the amount of effort or child participation involved in making them. Making a single Valentine is an enjoyable act of love, but I know that creating 20-50 of the things (some of the kids have older siblings, you know) can be a real a labor of love, one that often goes far beyond the capacity of a preschooler to concentrate. And besides, they're just as excited about giving you a "Cars Movie" or "Princess" Valentine as they are a multi-layered, lace and bow creation, and that, after all, is what's important.

As I reflect on them, I try to imagine each child's participation in the event, be it choosing the right stickers, carefully writing their own names, wielding a glue stick, or reveling in the special Valentine's Day display at the drug store. Some of the children have dictated special messages just for me. It's all a big, wonderful pile of love.

But as I went through this year's collection, there was one in particular that touched my heart. I have no idea who gave it to me:

Look at that scissor work and those carefully drawn shapes. I love the one torn edge. I like to think the apple stickers are a sign that it was made especially for me, the teacher. It's really quite a masterpiece of love.

Happy Valentine's Day! I hope your life is as full of love as mine. And know this, even if I've never met you, I love you.

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Unknown said...

Happy Valentine's Day, Tom! Reading your post this morning was like opening a valentine! So precious and delightful---you left me a little misty! I treasure each of my Valentine cards, as I read your post I had to go get the ones I received and got misty all over again!

SurprisedMom said...

I think I've gotten a little cynical about Valentine's Day. But after reading your post, I felt my heart melt a little. My girls are in their late and mid-teens so the days of multiple valentines for the class are over. I do remember the days though when they struggled to write their names on the valentines for their classmates and the homemade ones for The Mister and me. That's when I adored Valentine's day. This Valentine's Day was very good. The Mister and The Youngest spent the day shopping yesterday and surprised me last night and this morning. It truly was the thought that counted and love that went into it. So, maybe, I shouldn't be so cyncial about what can be a precious holiday.

Pumpkin Delight (Kimberly) said...

I love them! They are beautiful! Did you require that they had to be hand made? I don't see any of the store bought kind. These look like they were made especially for you.
It is nice to see your kids get more excited about giving than getting. We spent the last hour of the day pacing them out, reading them, and having a treat. Passing them out was their favorite part.

Floor Pie said...

Tom, thank you for NOT requiring that they be hand made! With 25 in The Boy's class and almost as many in Little Girl's, nothing would have brought out my bitter, cynical side faster.

As it was, Little Girl picked out her box of valentines back in early January on a routine trip to Bartell's. I was sick and looking for some cough drops, feeling just a little annoyed by the presence of all this V-day stuff so early. But she was so captivated by the display, so full of innocent delight; the very antithesis or cynicism.

I let her pick out one box. She insisted on picking out a second one with Star Wars for her brother, announcing joyfully to the whole store how much her brother loves Star Wars. As a parent of siblings you learn to treasure such moments of thoughtfulness.

I let her put both boxes in our cart...which we left right there by mistake, forgetting to pay for them or take them home. It was hours later when she asked to play with her valentines. Uh oh. SO, we got all bundled up in our coats again, hauled ourselves back to Bartell's, and found the valentines reshelved none the worse for wear.

She had so much fun playing with the box in the weeks leading up to V-day. Her brother was delighted and touched with the Star Wars valentines she'd picked out for him.

And when Mass Mailing Day arrived, they both took great care preparing those store-bought valentines. The Boy got his K class roster and wrote each kid's name himself. Little Girl loved choosing which stickers to put on each one. And they both put lots of careful consideration into which friend got which varitey of valentine.

I was particulary proud when my son chose the one that said "You're a Winner" for the few boys in his class that he clashes with sometimes. "He'll like this, because he's very competitive," he explained with sincerity.

So, just as you said, there's tremendous value in any kind of valentine, crafty or not. Thank you so much for recognizing that! Happy Valentines Day!

Jason, as himself said...

This year I was especially taken back by the level of enthusiasm that my students had for Valentine's Day. The way they handed me my valentines with such pride, and yes, love, was touching. Even if it was just a little Scooby Doo or Sponge Bob valentine with their name scrawled on the back. It meant so much to them to be giving it to me.

Kat said...

Lovely post. My favorite valentine this year was from a little girl who presented me with a little bottle of Love's Baby Soft cologne. She was so excited and couldn't wait for me to put some on. She told me she picked it out herself because it was pink. I think this means I'm going to have to smell like Love's Baby Soft for the rest of the year :)

Launa Hall said...

Love right back your way from DC, Teacher Tom.

I agree, that's one heck of a beautiful Valentine, and it was clearly made for you and only you. Enjoy.

Unknown said...

I have a box of homemade valentines from my six kids. You just can't get the feelings from the store purchased versions. Great post!

Unknown said...

It is very beautiful! Definitely made with love for their teacher : ).

Kaishon's party was missed as they had a snow day at school on Friday.

He doesn't want to make Valentines today... I am sad he is over Valentines.

Childhood goes by so quickly, doesn't it?

Deborah Stewart said...

That valentine would be one of my favorites too for all the same reasons.