Handmade Valentine 2

Handmade Or Store-Bought, Every Valentine’s Day Card Counts

Valentine’s Day is almost upon us so this week will be filled with kids joyfully bringing cards to and from school and parents fretting in the background.

STOP WORRYING. I don’t care if you went to a big-box store or crafted at home twenty-five times. Have fun. Show love. I hope you included your kids in at least the first dozen cards, and if they couldn’t participate and they’re over the age of four, you probably picked the wrong cards. Note it for next year and let it go.

But the best way to not worry about Valentine’s Day cards? Don’t judge the cards your kids get. BECAUSE YOU’RE WRONG.

If my kid hands your kid a store-bought card, you better believe he walked up and down the aisle for twenty minutes trying to choose the best card for his classmates whom he adores. You should picture him carefully separating all thirty-two cards with the same care they open and clean the Fabergé Eggs in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. Finally, he sat down and wrote his name over and over adding special stickers with joy and love. Those are very loved cards from my son even if your child gets the design three more times.


If my other kid hands your kid a handmade card, you can picture me brainstorming how she, not me, can make a card as she’s only 3 years old and shocked me by turning up her nose at every option in the store. The cards she created aren’t based on Pinterest because they are her cards so every sticker was carefully selected and placed in a particular order understood only to her and not altered by any adult. Every word was dictated since my daughter cannot yet write and only slightly tweaked to make a little sense for the card reader. Most cards are wordless beyond her name.

Handmade Valentine 2
She wanted to call this a pound puppy, and I wasn’t sure that everyone watches 90’s TV as religiously as we do.
Handmade Valentine
She also made this one so that parent won’t believe N did these herself. Oh well.

More importantly, you should know that my kids and I go through every card after the school’s Valentine’s Day party and read each one out loud. My children smile and laugh and admire the ones with cartoon characters as much as the ones clearly made by 35-year-old moms with scrapbooks. They aren’t more impressed with one or the other and neither am I.

So don’t tell me that either card means more. Handmade or homemade does not express more love or sincerity. It can just as easily express pride and vanity and the desire to one-up a neighbor, friend or classmate. Some children are not able to write their names in a small spaces twenty-five times or to express themselves visually or have any interest in doing so without fighting all afternoon. Do their Valentine cards have less value because a parent chooses to let a child express him or herself in another way or on another day instead of expressing a current cultural trend, which DIY over store-bought is?

Of course not. The fanciest stamped and crocheted cards and the popstar of the week cards make my family’s hearts full because we let them both in. My kids are just happy to see their friends’ names on the card.

So thank you. Thank you to the parents who take the time to help their children find Valentine’s cards that play to their kids’ strengths whatever those may be. I trust you to find it, and we’ll love whatever Valentine’s Day cards you choose.

A particular person may feel like this post is directed towards her; however, I have seen this concept implied quite a bit and finally wrote about it. The timing may not feel that way, and for this, I am sorry.

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on LateEnough.com, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents 2 elementary-aged children, 1 foster baby, 3 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

18 thoughts to “Handmade Or Store-Bought, Every Valentine’s Day Card Counts”

  1. I think what’s important is that you say that you and your kids appreciate each and every card, whether store bought or handmade. And I don’t think you’ll lose many friends over that.

    If I decide to make cards with my kids, it’s because it’s something I want to enjoy with them, not to one up someone or show off. I’m a maker at heart, but due to time constraints, I’m often a buyer. This year they made cards for their classes, and by made, I mean we put together little foam sticker cards that took no real skill or fanciness. BUT it was the first time we have done a craft like that that did not give me heart palpitations throughout the entire thing, and they really enjoyed it.

    Then I bought cards for the party we have today with 26 other kids. And I wrote their names because I’ll be lucky if I can get them to write their name once, much less 26 times.

    Happy Valentine’s Day, friend! xo

    1. I think that’s perfect in that it doesn’t have to be perfect. You love to make things and you picked something that the kids could make (not for fanciness but something at their level).

      And I got my oldest to write his name on 27 cards in one sitting this year at the age of 6. Last year, it was over 3-4 sittings. And the year before that I think he wrote E on half of them and I wrote E really messy on the other half? Oh and I actually have an E and N stamp but it doesn’t show up well on the VDay cards. We use it on the Christmas cards though.

      The point is you find what works with minimal fights and you enjoy what your kids get with no judgement. I don’t even mock the cards we get that are clearly not made by the kid. I don’t want anyone to feel bad — well, maybe the parents who turn up their nose at store bought cards because that makes me mad.

  2. Abbey plays with my old Pound Puppy at my mom’s house, which isn’t the point of this post but still.

    I think it’s perfect that you let your kids decide how they want to do their cards. Love is love.

  3. If you have fun on Valentine’s Day then you are doing it right. If people know you care about them, then you are doing it right. It’s not a competition. It’s a gesture of love and appreciation. It’s about gratitude, not one-upping each other.

  4. Love this post! Thankfully E isn’t even close to this but I have to agree with you on this one; it doesn’t matter what the final product is – it’s the thought and love behind it! love you and miss you xox

  5. Amen, sister. I can’t tell you how many hours were spent by my daughter, going through the box of pre-designed valentines to decide which four people were going to get x design, and which 4 people would get y design, and if I give this one to Ashley is she going to think it means we’re best friends, etc. etc. etc. Even with boxed current culture valentines, there’s still a lot (A LOT) of thought that goes into who gets what. Or likewise, finding the card that’s just snarky enough that she could give it to her arch nemesis without getting into too much trouble.

  6. we started our WALGREENS PURCHASED valentines last week because the simple process of getting H to write his name and place a sticker on each one is painfully slow. he, too, will go through every single valentine he receives and squeal with delight. i am in love with the first card that N made.

  7. I have NEVER been a huge fan of Valentine’s Day. I”m sure there’s some psycho babble reason why. But I LOVE reading the cards kids get and picking out the ones for the friends. We are doing Star Wars – shocker – but we LOVE homemade cards and usually end up feeling bad that we didn’t do homemade ones. Though we did try to do them last year for family and they are still here…HAH!

  8. I am an artist. It’s one of the reasons that I make my son do his own cards. I want them to be authentically his. If he doesn’t want to do that, then we buy and he still fills them out or whatever. I helped him when he was littler, of course, but mostly it was him writing his name himself. In preschool, daddy wanted me to write his name for him so it would “look better.” I refused because to me it “looks better” if he does it himself. I don’t judge anybody’s effort. (and sometimes it IS an effort just to get to the store) I know that everybody has different strengths and we need to lift each other up, not break each other down.

    1. um, that sounded a little bit stilted and weird. please take it in a love everybody way and not an I’m-an-artist!-but I-applaud-your-effort way. Not what I meant to say at all.

      1. I took it as you meant it (of course, I know you wouldnt be judgy.) I think we all have our strengths to share with our kids and our kids to share with us. You could guide your kids in projects that I can’t because you are an artist. My husband can guide them in building a backyard fort that most parents couldn’t.
        But particularly in something every kid must do and enjoys? It’s just wrong to make it competitive and a ‘proof of love/like/care.’

  9. This is so true and I’m glad you said it. But you know what I think is best about this post? That you put so much thought into the meaning of the cards with your own kids, and take the time to look through the ones they receive with them after school. That’s really cool.

  10. LOVE this. Our cards this year are tattoos in boxes, Tinkerbell with bracelets, and Merida with pencils. And yes. We spent a half hour and went to two stores to find a set with pencils because Joseph thought that would help kids draw, and a set with bracelets because Elizabeth thinks they’re pretty, and tattoos because Joseph warned Elizabeth the boys in her class probably won’t want Tinkerbell bracelets.

    They thought a lot about it.

    Even more, they spent a long time picking the “perfect” chocolates for their teachers. A gold foil chocolate apple that I’d never have chosen but they declared shiny AND healthy.

    And that’s what I’m going to keep reminding myself.

  11. The truth: I can’t stand crafts and I loathe the possibility that people share ideas on pinterest merely to impress others or to gain attention.

    I do, however, love my kids. So we always bought our Valentines (carefully selected by each child, of course) and filled out to the best of THEIR abilities.

    It never occurred to me to look down on a handmade Valentine (even the truly perfect ones that are clearly done by adults) so I certainly hope no one (child or adult) ever judged my kids’ simple offerings.

    Generosity begins in the heart then manifests itself in many different ways.
    Bravo to you for saying this out loud.

  12. A friend sent me a link to this blog after I posted that I felt like a bad mom on facebook. So many of my facebook friends posted pictures of the most amazing and creative Valentine’s I’ve ever seen and my kids left for school this morning with store bought Angry Birds and Disney Priness Valentines with stickers for their friends. This was just what I needed to read/hear this morning but if I’m being completely honest, I still feel like a lazy mom, though I know I shouldn’t. I have 4 children, ages 7 to 5 months (and the baby just got released from the hospital after a 9 day RSV stay). We as mothers do need to stop judging and second guessing not only eachother, but ourselves.

    1. It’s okay to still feel that way — feelings aren’t something we have much control over. Actions are much more important. Just know that kids are super psyched bringing your kids’ cards home, and the school Valentine’s Day party is supposed to be about them anyway. The rest is not so important. If your kids learn to love and to love the cards they get, you’re doing a great job. Lazy should be saved for the parents who teach that judging each other is as easy as a Valentine’s Day card.

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