This episode happend a full year before it was published, mostly because I didn't want it to affect our daughter's relationship with anyone at school. Since we changed schools, it's fair game now. If your child has had an uncomfortable experience on Valentine's Day, then there's a chance this article will help. 

Our daughter may not have handled the situation perfectly, but she’s new at this, and it’s probably lucky she talked to her mother before the next day of school. It was our first time dealing with anything more than typical grade school Valentine’s Day niceties, and it’s only going to get more awkward from here.

The deal is simple. A boy liked her more than the other girls. He gave her a special gift and asked if she’d be his Valentine. She said no.

It’s not mean to say no, I don’t think, but I suggested she maybe should not have taken the gift. On top of that, the boy was sad all day, probably partially because another boy said he got burned and maybe needed to wait until high school. It’s not a simple situation for little kids who have never dealt with it all before. Does being one’s Valentine suggest more than just being friends when you’re in fourth grade? What should you say or do if this situation occurs at any grade level? Why in the world do we promote Valentine’s Day as an elementary school holiday? I can’t answer any of the questions, but I can tell you what I told our daughter and then how my wife solved it better.

The problem is that I was thinking like the boy, like me, dumb and dedicated. She was nice to him, and it took a lot to get the guts to ask her if she would be his Valentine. I’d never even gotten up the guts to do that myself, so I respected a kid who made the effort. But I HAD gotten shot down plenty of times, so I wanted him to not suffer. And there’s the gift. And feelings. And mean friends. And having to be in the same class together. I was there, and I was talking in all different directions. I’d settled on a super long letter, giving the gift back, and telling him about being friends.

Luckily, Lisa simplified the whole thing. She said it would be embarrassing to take the gift back, that the letter should simply thank him, apologize if she’d made him feel bad, and offer continued friendship. A few sincere words along with the letter. No giving the gift back or long explanations.

Just in case the kid spent his own money or something, I told my daughter to agree to give the gift back if he actually asked about it, but that’s as far as I dared to interfere after Lisa fixed it.

I know that many teachers have tried to de-personalize Valentine’s Day over the years, but it’s still a relatively awkward holiday to celebrate. I mean, except for a few years in college when most of us are decent looking and confident, it’s basically the worst holiday ever invented, especially for boys. I know, there are a bunch of women out there who want to karate chop me in the throat for saying that, but it IS tough on boys. Most of us, actually. I’m not talking about Dave from high school, who asks a dozen girls out and gets one yes. No, I’m talking about those of us who obsessed for days or weeks over talking to a girl and could not because another denial would be too much. Those of us who invested real time and effort into asking just the right girl out in order to have our hearts torn out and stomped on in front of our friends.

I’m hoping the path our daughter has taken in dealing with this boy is the right one for both of them and for their friendship. I want her to stay friends with him as much as I want her to be able to someday be the right boy’s Valentine. I’d hate to have him lose his gumption, though I can’t say I want anyone to be like Dave from high school. Mostly, I hope that all the excuses and explanations I initially came up with were as useless as Lisa implied. Asking someone out would be a lot easier to deal with if it really was a yes-or-no-and-move-on situation. I probably could have handled asking more girls out if I didn’t believe I’d be ridiculed for weeks by my friends, her friends, teachers, distant relatives, my sister, and all my sister’s friends. I hope that discretion prevails at my kids’ school.