A Parent’s Guide to Reclaiming Valentine’s Day

You may be asking yourself, “When did Valentine’s Day become a family affair?” Well, the answer is simple — the minute the baby was born. The next time Feb. 14 rolled around, instead of the usual romantic dinner, your spouse surprised you with a clay impression of the baby’s hand that left you breathless. And without even noticing, you and the proud father let the holiday pass with an “aw” and a smile and barely a kiss good night, just happy to get a good night’s sleep.

If this is your house, it is time to reclaim Valentine’s Day as the holiday it was intended to be — a romantic day for two. There is nothing wrong with buying 30 valentines for each child’s classroom and turning the dining room table into a bedlam of red and white construction paper, lace and glue. But it doesn’t mean you can’t set aside some special time with your spouse to remember why you entered into this family pledge in the first place.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

Swap babysitting nights with another couple and each celebrate Valentine’s Day on a different night. Do what you used to do in your pre-kid days — go out to dinner, see a movie or really indulge and go to a spa complete with massages and private hot tubs.

Spend the day “wearing the kids out” and reserve the night for yourselves. Go on a family bike ride or hike, or take a swim at an indoor pool. Then get the kids to bed on time (or even a little bit early). Have a candlelight dinner, preferably catered-in, or create the mood you want in another room of the house with candles and soft music.

Let your spouse know he is special and that this holiday is important to you by leaving little love notes on his pillow or car windshield. Get his attention. He may come up with some excellent ideas of his own for celebrating.

If the kids are in school or otherwise occupied during the day, plan a romantic lunch together. Go to your favorite place and let the staff there know you are celebrating Valentine’s Day and want the mood to be romantic. If you can swing it, meet at home for lunch — draw the drapes, set the mood…at least you know you won’t be interrupted (so you can eat your food, of course).

If your kids are old enough, arrange to have them sleep over with friends (be fair, though, not on Feb. 14). Do not work or do chores. This time is for the two of you. If romance has waned a bit in recent years, get out your wedding album or vacation pictures from a time before kids. Play your wedding song and dance cheek-to-check in the living room. Use special memories to rekindle the fire.

Let’s say your honey isn’t the best at making plans for birthdays or holidays. He may be your Romeo, but you’ll have to set the itinerary. There’s no rule that men have to make the plans, so just tell him where and when to be there and make it special. Once he sees the effort you’ve put in, he’ll do more than show up!

As much as you adore your children, it is important that your marriage not take a backseat to the crooked cut out hearts and misspelled “I love you” notes from the kids. Exchange cards and gifts with your spouse when you are alone and allow enough time to savor the moment. Write her a poem or just tell her why she is still special to you. Do this, or something like it, every Feb. 14.

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