This story was originally published in February 2021
“Mama, is Valentine’s Day cancelled this year?”
My daughter’s innocent question is like an arrow to my heart. I’ve been separated from my husband for six months, and the hurt is still fresh, so there’s a big part of me that wishes it was.
“No, sweetheart,” I say, kneeling down in front of her and giving her a hug. “Why would you think that?”
“Well, if I don’t go back to school, how will I give my cards out to my friends?”
Good question. 2020 may be over, but the pandemic isn't. Not by a long shot. She's supposed to return to in-class learning before Feb. 14, but it seems highly unlikely given the way our COVID-19 numbers are looking.
Since this is also my first Valentine’s Day as a single mom, I’ve decided to rebrand it in my mind and make it all about me and my daughter. I want to start a new tradition and celebrate our strong bond, and how we’ve grown closer during the time she spends at my house, which is about half the week.
“We’re going to have our own Valentine’s party at home!” I finally answer her. “It’s going to be so much fun!”
She looks at me, baffled. “But how? Who’s going to come?”
My smile is a little wobbly, but I soldier on. “We’re going to create our own kind of celebration this year. Since it’ll just be me and you, I thought we could do something new. Valentine’s Day doesn’t just have to be about flowers and fancy dinners for grown-ups. That’s what Papa and I used to do, but this year I want to do something extra-special with my favourite girl—you!”
“OK,” she says slowly. “So, what are we going to do?”
“Lots of cool things, like a Valentine’s treasure hunt,” I tell her, not wanting to give too much away. “But you’re going to have to wait for the rest. It’s a surprise."
She grins, satisfied, and runs off to chase the cats down the hall.
I’ve already bought some L.O.L. doll Valentine’s Day cards. My plan is for us to make a list of everyone she wants to send one to. It doesn’t just have to be the kids in her class, either. I’m thinking of her cousins, or other family friends we haven’t seen in a while because of the virus. Then, instead of mailing them out, my idea is to take a picture of them on my phone and send them, so her friends get them straight away on the day. I suppose we could just post them all, but the mail seems to be taking longer than usual to arrive, and I don’t want to chance it.
As I watch my seven-year-old waving the little laser around as she plays with our cats, I sigh in relief. After all the life changes we have been through in 2020, on top of the pandemic, I need to make this Valentine’s Day something positive and memorable—both for her, and for me. And with dreaded lockdown upon us once again, we definitely need this lift.
My daughter deserves a magical day, and that’s exactly what she’s going to get.
Even though people say it’s a made-up Hallmark holiday with overpriced roses, I’ve always been a romantic at heart. My ex was never a fan of going all-out, but I always enjoyed it. Wearing a red dress or shirt. The pastel candy hearts. The flowers at work. There will be none of that this year, of course, but I'm determined to still make it a day about love. Not the romantic kind, which I’ve learned doesn’t always last forever, but the sort that’s unconditional and unbreakable, between a mother and child.
Along with the L.O.L. cards, I’ve also picked up some puppy and kitty cat tattoo Valentine’s. I can already see her slapping the “You’re Purrfect!” one on her hand. She’ll probably pick the “You’re Meowvelous!” one for me. The sillier, the better.
For the treasure hunt, I plan to create 20 clues that lead her all around the house, with little gifts at designated points. For example, I bought unicorn and sloth fluffy pens that she will discover along the way, along with a little box of emoji chocolates. When she gets to the end, she’ll find a Where’s Waldo? mini book box with a magnifying glass. She’s a big fan of the series, and I figure that should keep us occupied for a while.
Instead of spending the entire day stuck inside, I’ve also bought some cute heart-shaped bubble wands so we can take them outdoors after the treasure hunt and get some fresh air. Online learning takes its toll on my girl (and me!), and I find both of our moods improve when we take a break from going from one screen to another and do something physical. Blowing bubbles isn’t something I’d normally think of doing in winter, but being in lockdown again has forced me to think outside the box as a parent.
I’m also going to get some good old-fashioned construction paper, string and glue ready so we can make our own decorations and put them up. I’ve never been one of those crafty Pinterest moms, but I want to do a creative activity with my daughter to show her how much I love her. Something like a Valentine’s Day banner made up of little heart cut-outs with cute sayings on them—things like, “Be mine,” “Hug me,” and “Cutie.”
The challenges of being a single mom during COVID have been overwhelming. When you add remote learning to the equation, as well as not seeing grandparents and cousins, it quickly becomes a distressing situation for everyone. We're stuck around each other all the time. Every morning seems like Groundhog Day.
Something like Valentine’s Day is a chance for me and my daughter to temporarily forget everything scary and sad happening all over the world. So yes, this year I will be getting my Cupid on like never before and going out of my way to make this holiday super-sweet. My daughter deserves it. We will wear red and pink. We will probably eat too much chocolate. And every time I catch a glimpse of joy in her big blue eyes, I will be reminded of how much love is still present in my life. How my seven-year-old special someone makes it all worth it.