heart, love, romance

Our Neurodivergent Family’s Valentine’s Day

(This is also cross-posted on the Respectfully Connected blog HERE.)

In the US, Valentine’s Day is one of the most successful commercial endeavors of the year.  In the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day the pressure gradually increases until the big day arrives. Jewelry, roses, chocolate, and stuffed animals are sold in seemingly endless quantities. Dinner reservations book up quickly as do romantic get-aways. Many a marriage proposal is made on Valentine’s Day, and it is also a popular date for weddings and vow renewals As all of the commercials, movies, and TV programs that air Valentine’s Day specials will tell you, love is in the air – and if you’re anybody than obviously you will be spending the evening in heels and a black dress out at a fancy venue with your significant other.

Uh…nope. Not I.

I have never been “big” on Valentine’s Day. I recognize that it is a big day (and a big deal) for many. But it isn’t to me, and it hasn’t been for a long time. Valentine’s often looks very different in neurodivergent families than it does in neurotypical families. And that’s okay. Or at least, it should be okay.

My Valentine’s Day is not going to look very different than my other days. Here are some of the reasons why:

  • I don’t really see the “point” of Valentine’s Day. I know its origins and everything, but I don’t really “get” its relevance. It seems like a duplication of my anniversary. While I’m more than happy to accept a gift for Valentine’s 😉 I still don’t understand the fuss, and I definitely don’t like the heavy focus on materialism nor the price gouging that occurs.

  • I don’t like crowds of people and Valentine’s Day tends to draw large crowds. Everyone (it seems) has chosen to go out for a night on the town, which means lines, traffic, waiting, and over-stimulation. My favorite ethnic restaurants, ordinarily half-empty during off-peak times, become transformed into hot-spots full of so many people that I feel practically claustrophobic.  No thanks.

  • Since nearly “everyone” feels the need to celebrate this day of love, securing a suitable babysitter is extremely difficult.  I am very protective over my children and very particular about who I will allow to watch them. Because of their differences, children like mine are at risk for being harmed and/or abused, or at the very least misunderstood, and I can’t risk just letting a random babysitter or child care provider look after them.

  • Traditional/common Valentine’s Day activities tend to cater more to those who meet the “status quo’ of a “typical” couple: white, middle class, neurotypical, cisgender, heterosexual, etc. And while the activities themselves aren’t “bad” things, they aren’t what I personally would like to spend a lot of time and money doing.

So how do we make Valentine’s Day work in our family? It varies from year to year:

Sometimes we do a family Valentine’s Day thing with all the kids while other times it’s a couple only thing. (One year I really needed some “me” time, so I spent my Valentine’s Day alone at a day spa while hubby kept up with the kids.) Sometimes donate the money that would have gone on buying each other a Valentine’s gift on a cause of our choosing. Sometimes we do absolutely nothing! One year we did a service project for a shelter serving women and children who were survivors of domestic violence. Sometimes we dress up; sometimes we do jeans and t-shirts.

Sometimes we exchange gifts with one another. Sometimes we do go out for “Valentine’s Day, but do it a few days before or a few days after the actual day to avoid all of the hoopla. Sometimes we cook a Valentine’s meal together. One year we shared different Bible verses about love with one another that resonated with us and then discussed how we wanted to make goals for intentional living and radical loving based upon those Christlike examples. Another year we went to Chuck E. Cheese’s on Valentine’s Day (as it was practically empty, we had free reign of the place with the kids; that was nice).This year we might be going to a movie with the kids.

Whatever you do or don’t do, you are just as valuable as anyone else. Valentine’s Day is just a day; nothing more, nothing less. You are not less valuable because you didn’t get and/or want a dozen roses, a box of chocolates, a teddy, and gemstones for Valentine’s Day. And your love is no less special either.

Happy Valentine’s Day!