February the 14th divides people into two camps: eye-rolling cynics on one side and card-wielding romantics on the other. I’m a bit of a cynic myself, and all too familiar with the oft-rehearsed arguments about Valentine’s day being nothing more than a bankroller for the card companies. But I will be celebrating Valentine’s day in my own way this year, and every other, and here’s why.
As any parent will tell you, once babies come along life changes forever. Where once there were two of you making your way in the world together, you now have another human being dependent on you for their every need. They need you to feed, clothe and teach them. They don’t understand adult desires for things like sleep or peace and quiet, and will shout loudly until they are satisfied. The moment they were born you fell head over heels in love with them, so you’ll do almost anything for them even if you don’t really have the time or energy. While they’re small, at least, they’re all-consuming. Life becomes a juggling act and as parents it’s easy to forget why you got together in the first place.
My other half and I have been together for almost a decade, ever since he befriended me at law school. I don’t kid myself that it’s because he fancied me; it had more to do with the fact I have neat handwriting and went to all the lectures and he could therefore copy my notes easily. Rather more familiar with the rugby pitch than the library, he needed help and I was happy to oblige as he was endearing in a rather cheeky way. I’d never have guessed that nine years on from discussing the finer points of property law over a cheap pint, we’d be married with two children.
We may not have done anything headline worthy, but we did keep ourselves occupied in our lives BC (before children). We both passed our exams (sighs of relief all round), travelled around Eastern Europe, moved to London and discovered it together, renewed our love of camping, bought a flat and ran a marathon. We planned a wedding and went on a honeymoon we’d struggle to afford or justify now. Next came thoughts of a family and, although it was by no means a smooth ride, we got through the difficult times together and are now the happy parents of a lovely cheeky boy and a cheerful, chatty girl. It would be easy to focus all our attention on them, and I’m sure I’m guilty of putting them first a lot of the time, but I’m determined that we always keep one eye on the two of us.
Time and energy are in short supply, but night out even just once a month or so keeps us on track and gives us time to chat without being interrupted or puked on. Birthdays and little victories like a promotion at work are marked and celebrated like they would have BC, even if it’s a curry at home rather than a dinner out. And I think that preserving the daily niceties is even more important than the one-offs. Where once I might have craved an occasional bunch of flowers or a bottle of something nice as a token of affection, I’m now happy with a simple gesture like a cup of tea in bed or an offer to take the kids out for an hour while I read the papers. The fact that he’ll let me watch Corrie without complaining and doesn’t laugh at my parking makes my heart sing. I love that he thanks me for dinner even if we both know it’s been less than successful, and that he lets me scoop the froth from his cappuccino. Going out to the office every day, taking out the bins, fixing the buggies and slaying the slugs all mean more to me than a heart-shaped chocolate ever could.
Say what you like about valentine’s day – it’s an easy target. But I will be marking it in my own small way and reminding my man that I love and appreciate him. No tacky gifts or singing teddy bears but a card and decent home-cooked meal. In return I’m expecting a hastily written card (bought at the station) with still-wet ink, the empty packet for which will be left on the desk in the study. After almost 10 years, there are few surprises. As long as I get my cup of tea in bed, though, I’m happy.