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My Valentine's Day Means More This Year

Elementary classroom Valentine’s Day parties typically incorporate the same three basic elements: (1) the card exchange, (2) the games and/or crafts and (3) the snacks and drinks.

Despite the creative party-planning I’ve witnessed from class parents over the years, I’ve rarely seen these basics change. And really, why should they? They tend to guarantee fun for every child at the party, and that’s all that any classroom party-planner could ever want.

This year, however, my third-grader’s class is doing something a bit different for their Valentine’s Day party.

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They’re still exchanging cards with one other. They’re still enjoying cookies and juice (and a fruit plate, for good measure). But they’re also walking to a nearby assisted living center to make Valentine’s Day crafts with the center’s senior residents.

When I first read this information on the class party sign-up email, I wanted to reach through my computer screen and hug the class parents and teacher who organized the event. This party idea doesn’t just alter the basic elements of a classroom Valentine’s Day party, it also transforms them in a potentially beautiful way.

In the idealistic part of my mind, I imagine that the kids in this third grade class are going to learn universal truths about love and kindness and then translate those truths into their everyday behavior. The more realistic part of my mind, however, knows that one afternoon spent crafting with senior citizens might not change all that much. Nonetheless, I think that these children will learn some important lessons from this party.

Some kids in the class, for instance, might overcome their anxiety and fear of interacting with senior citizens. These fears are quite common, after all, and it often takes just one personal encounter to lessen that fear.

Some might learn that love isn’t just about romance and candy hearts. It also involves sharing, compassion and generosity.

To that effect, some of the kids in this class come to recognize that seniors are just as funny, quirky, grumpy, happy, silly, quiet, outgoing, introspective and outrageous as they are.

Some might learn that love isn’t just about romance and candy hearts. It also involves sharing, compassion and generosity.

Some might see the ways in which acts of service are acts of love.

Some might grow to enjoy volunteering their time with people from different generations.

Some of these kids might feel displaced by both the explicit and implicit heteronormativity of most Valentine’s Day celebrations. A party that transcends expressions of love between boys and girls might help these children to feel more included.

Some might feel relieved that they can escape the “lovey-dovey” aspects of Valentine’s Day, no matter what kind of person they love.

And some might simply have a fun afternoon making crafts with, as my son put it, “the old people.” And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

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Regardless of what they learn, the experience should reveal some glimmer of truth about love, in all of its wonderfully varied manifestations. And that is all any classroom party-planner (or parent) could truly ever want.

Image via Twenty20/darkestpix

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