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Getting an "A" on V-Day

Growing up, my father always gave my siblings and me Valentine's Day cards, candy, and a red rose. Of course, my mother got dinner, a gift card, and TONS of roses. Once I was married, I realized how much romantic influence my father had on me. I thought every man did this kind of stuff for his wife and children, and yes, I put that same standard on my husband. Needless to say, after a few tense years and a few choice conversations about unfair expectations, I dropped the idea of having holiday-related romantic moments.

mardi gras

My husband doesn't buy the commercialism of any holiday really, but especially Valentine's Day and Sweetest Day (which I found out isn't even heard of in some states), so I decided to believe that romance should just be incorporated in the daily routines of marriage. I continued to feel that way until we had, uh, FIVE children.

Having children changes your perspective in so many areas, but this year, I became more conscious of it because my eldest daughter is now at the age that I was when I remembered getting those gifts from my dad. I considered encouraging my husband to take her out for Valentine's Day or send her a card, but I would probably be projecting my stuff onto him again, right?

Instead, I thought about the impact of seeing my parents go out on dates away from us three, and how I saw that as a sign that they still loved each other. It's comforting as a child, knowing that your parents still love each other, so it's time for me to get an "A" in my once "D"-rated romance.

I wish I could take all of the credit, but in all honesty, my husband's fraternity had an event that just so happened to fall on the weekend before Valentine's Day. I initially thought that it was a party, kind of a cabaret event, so I wasn't going to put a lot of preparation into it. A few days prior, my husband casually mentions that it is a Black Tie affair.

I scream.

"What's wrong?"

"Do you know what it takes for me to get ready for a Black Tie affair? I need time to find the right dress, and the perfect accessories, get my nails done, and I have to get the right shoes that are cute and good for dancing..." — rising panic causing my voice to crack.

"Oh, well. Remind me to put my tux in the cleaners."

See, ladies. We just got it rough on all ends.

On Thursday night, I snuck out after dinner so that I could run to the mall and a couple of discount formalwear places. Everywhere I went, I saw something cute or nice, but not something WOW. I knew that I had less than 72 hours to put together this ensemble, but I had to stay positive.

Still, I didn't find anything on Thursday. Friday, we were asked over to some friend's home for dinner. I treasure family night, so I went. Unfortunately, a part of my mind was at the mall the whole time.

The big event was on Saturday at 8 P.M. The pressure was on.

Saturday, the kids had dance and basketball, which didn't get finished until 4 P.M., so my shopping excursion couldn't kick off until 4:30 P.M.

I now have less than 4 hours to get this together. I take my eldest daughter with me for support and encouragement.

Wrong move.

As you know, I hate shopping and the idea of going in and out of stores and malls could have made me sick if I weren't on a mission. Clearly, today, God was on my side — at first. Right away, I found a fabulous dress on sale at Macy's, got my cute shoes on sale at Boscov's, but the accessories...what a drag, and after the third or fourth store, my daughter started to get irritated.

"Mommy, this is crazy. No one is going to be looking at your jewelry."

Oh, such naiveté. In a room of 1,000 people, half will be women, and half of them will be looking at one another from head-to-toe. She's not yet had to experience this, so I schooled her.

"Of course, people are going to be looking at my jewelry, but more importantly, I'm looking at my jewelry. You know I never go out — and when I do, I'm looking like I just rolled out of bed and..."

And as the words came out of my mouth, I realized that I was slamming my daughter with my own baggage. I stopped mid-sentence and wrapped up my shopping. What I wanted to say to my daughter was that I have an image to dispel. I have to be a hot mama when I go out — because people don't expect it.

My husband and I had an incredible time at the event, and I loved hearing comments like "Wow, THIS is your wife. She makes you look good." Nothing like a hot dress and some pumps to get you from a "D" to an "A" in no time flat. I've decided we definitely have to do this at least once a quarter; only during the holidays is not enough.