I used to dread Valentine’s Day. In the elementary years, there were the inevitable flurries of classroom rumors about who liked who. There were the determined efforts to make sure the cheesy saying on the variety pack of cards your mom bought would not give the wrong person the idea that you might like them. Or the right person the idea you might like them. Or give anyone any ideas that might put your very fragile elementary school social status at risk.
Middle and high school brought something worse. Candy Grams. These were slips of paper accompanied by a piece of candy available for secret purchase and later hand delivered by perky student government members to the lucky recipients during the middle of class. While the room was dead quiet. Names were called. Popularity was confirmed. The opposite of popularity was confirmed. Painfully shy people like myself wondered if it would be worse to have all eyes on you as your name was called or to not have your name called at all. Ever.
Even after the politics of high school were behind me, what I did or got on Valentine’s Day never mattered much to me. Spending time with people I love is the best way to spend any day. My husband and I have a long standing Valentine’s Day tradition–pizza and a movie at home. This tradition also use to involve margaritas, but years of pregnancy and nursing put the cocktail portion of the evening on hold. (Note to self: Your kids are 8, 5 and 3, time to reinstate margaritas on Valentine’s Day!)
While candy grams (and expensive purchases fueled by commercialism) aren’t very romantic, there are lots of natural ways to show a little love this Valentine’s Day and all year long.
1) Slow dance. On a stressful morning last spring, I was feeling anxious. We took a walk in the pouring rain at the campground we were staying at. We found an empty pavilion and let the kids run around inside. I was thinking about my son’s emergency steroid prescription that needed to be filled, watching the kids run and listening to the rain hit the roof. My husband pulled me to him. Behind me, I heard a pretty song playing on his phone. He held me. We danced. I cried. Very romantic. The stress melted away and I was overwhelmed with thanks for him, for our kids, for this life.
2) Pick wildflowers. My husband rarely buys me flowers. Maybe twice that I can remember in our 15 years together. Far more romantic is that he frequently brings me wildflowers. Colorful blooms brought indoors, especially in spring when the need for color is so great after the long winter, is always a touching gesture.
3) Walk together. We spent a lot of time hiking together before children. We still hike, but there is definitely a different feel when three kids are along! Last fall, when my husband was on a break from work and all three children were in school at the same time, we hiked together alone for the first time in years. It was a great way to connect with nature and with each other. If we can’t get away for a hike, we often walk on the path in our backyard. On summer nights, when the kids are in bed, we walk the continuous loop over and over while we talk and plan and dream.
4) Cook. So, you have to be able to cook for this to work and I totally can’t. But, my husband can! Eating delicious food prepared by the one you love is very romantic. Since he has the skills in the meal department, I try to make up for it by baking his favorite cookies once in a while.
5) Camp. We are not avid campers, but even sleeping in the backyard is very romantic. Falling asleep to the sounds of nature, cuddling to keep warm when the temperature drops overnight and waking to the sounds of birds chirping is a recipe for romance. Even though our camp-outs now include three children, it is still special to fall asleep together listening to the sound of their breathing. In winter, you can have indoor camp outs for a cozy alternative.
6) Picnic. I love eating outside when the weather is nice. We have eaten in kayaks, on creek banks, on the beach and on mountain tops. There is something very romantic about eating outside, sitting on a log or a rock or in the sand. If it is freezing where you are in February, have a hot chocolate picnic!
7) Have a date night after the kids go to bed. We do this at least once a week, usually more. We talk, watch a movie together and eat one of our favorite snacks. Sometimes we even save dinner until the kids are sleep. This way we actually eat together without having to tend to anyone else during the meal. Cheaper than going out, you can wear your comfy clothes (pajamas), no sitter required, just as romantic.
8) Reminisce. If you have been together awhile, you probably share lots of good memories. Fun trips, scary experiences, funny moments. Get out the old photo album (if you are old enough to have pre digital stacks of them like I am) and take a stroll down memory lane. Remembering the romantic spark that started your relationship can spur new romantic moments.
9)Travel. Experiencing new places together is fun. Even a day trip can be enough to get you out of your normal routine and into each other. A change of scenery and shared discoveries can definitely be romantic.
10) Dance. Okay, so I know I already used this in number one, but I do have another romantic dance suggestion that you can do on Valentine’s Day or your anniversary or anytime you need a romantic boost. Every year on or near our anniversary, we dance to our wedding song. If you are not married or didn’t have a wedding song, pick another song that means something to you both and use that. We have done this every year for the last 12 years. Sometimes there are one or more children hanging from us as we do it. Sometimes one or more of those children is whining or crying or screaming. Sometimes it doesn’t seem like it is going to be all that romantic. But it always is.
This Valentine’s Day, there is no need to spend money on chocolate or cards or jewelry or fancy dinners out. Find a way to spend time together and celebrate your relationship naturally!