After the flurry of holiday activities, after the Christmas tree has been put away and the New Year’s resolutions eventually fizzle out, January and February seem to drag on forever.

Sure, there’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Groundhog Day, and Mardi Gras and Valentine’s Day.

But after the back-to-back holidays of Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas, this time of year seems ... deflated.

It probably doesn’t help that Valentine’s Day has always been my least favorite holiday. Nothing declares love like spending $50 or more on fresh flowers and cards that will both be thrown away in a week or two. True, there’s always chocolate, but even that is short-lived. Jewelry is always nice, but not always within the budget. One of my favorite things to do is to go out for dinner, but even that is difficult on Valentine’s Day with the crowds.

Instead, my husband and I will go to lunch together on Valentine’s Day or have a “date night” dinner on the day after, when we don’t have to worry about the crowds. And when it comes to flowers, I’d rather have flowers on a random day when I’m not expecting it. Instead of expensive jewelry, I’d rather take a trip together and experience some place new.

I guess I’m a Grinch when it comes to Valentine’s Day.

Last week, in lieu of cards or gifts, I told my husband I’d be just as happy with a cheap bottle of champagne and some orange juice from the grocery store. Call that romantic!

But, much like having children changes things at Christmas, being a parent changes things for all holidays. I was already in my pajamas at 7 p.m. the night before Valentine’s Day last week when I remembered I had yet to buy anything for our kids. I had to throw on some yoga pants and a T-shirt to battle the crowds at the local Dollar Tree, otherwise known as the mecca of cheap Valentine stuff.

After our three kids had gone to bed, I stuffed small, glittery gift bags with boxes of chocolates, Valentine’s cards and little craft sets, tying them up with a helium-filled heart balloon. I then tiptoed into each kid’s room, trying to stealthily place the bags and balloons near their bed for them to wake up to on Valentine’s Day.

And at 6 a.m. the next day, I woke up with my 2-year-old hitting me in the head with her helium-filled heart.

“Mommy, I got a bla-loon! A BLA-LOON!” she rejoiced, as she tried to show me her balloon. “It’s my BIRTHDAY!” she declared.

“No, it’s Valentines Day,” I told my toddler as she excitedly opened her gift bag. “Happy Valentine’s birthday!” she replied.

Our normal, wake-up-at-dawn-to-get-the-kids-on-the-school-bus kind of morning was happier than usual as our 8-, 6- and 2-year-old dug through their Valentines bags, sharing candy and playing with their balloons.

As my husband and 2-year-old were leaving, our daughter desperately tried to take her “bla-loon” with her to preschool.

I wished them both “Happy Valentine’s.”

My toddler grinned back.

“Happy birthday!”
Perhaps Valentine’s isn’t so bad after all.
— Lydia Seabol Avant writes The Mom Stop for The Tuscaloosa News in Alabama. Reach her at