A Valentine’s Day Post Mortem

Category: Weekly Columns

Another Valentine’s Day has passed. I survived. Sort of. As I wrote prior to the fateful day, Guys Hate Valentine’s Day. Why? Because it tends to be a lose-lose for us. We tend, in our caveman ways, to bungle it even when we have the best of intentions.

I want to share the good and the bad I experienced this year on my favorite holiday (not). Happily, I can say that I’ve been allowed to stay in the conjugal bed so nothing I did qualified for my wife’s nickname for me when I do mess up – Dr. Blunder. But, my boys messed up big-time. We’ll get to them later.

My Wife Knew What to Do

Let’s start with what my wife did for me and how it totally caught me off guard and surprised me. Since our older son just got accepted to the Berklee College of Music and since he and us do not qualify for any financial aid, we’ve had to revisit our finances and its consequences for our life style. Part of those consequences was the understanding that we would minimize our present giving for the time being. That is just a small part of the consequences that are liable to last seven years, since both boys will likely attend expensive out-of-state private colleges.

My wife wanted a new ski jacket, so on our last ski trip prior to Valentine’s Day, we got it. On Valentine’s Day I only had a card to give her, since the present had already been secured. I found the perfect card, wrote a sweet note to accompany it, and gave it to her. In turn, she gave me a gift bag with a card on the outside of it.

After reading the sweet card she had found, I pulled out of the bag what appeared to be two wrapped books. I declared, “I wonder what books you got me?” She smiled.

A Surprise!

I first opened the larger package and found the iPad I’d been coveting – that I’d put off buying for myself due to our recent agreement to cut back. The other package contained an accessory for it. I was so shocked that I didn’t even express the gratitude I felt at the moment. I rectified that error quickly and profusely thanked my wife.

Later that evening, as we had agreed to go out the day after Valentine’s Day to celebrate, we had finished dinner and were lying in bed, reading. It was clear that my wife was pouting. When wife’s pout, husbands are supposed to know exactly what is bothering them. Sadly, few of us have a clue, myself included. What did I do this time, I wondered?

I silently prayed her mood would pass or she’d just up and tell me “what the matter was.” No chance of that, so I finally broke down and asked why she was in a poor mood. Part of this spousal ritual is that just asking isn’t enough. She said, “nothing,” which meant I had to pry it out of her.


Finally, she angrily declared that neither of the boys had gotten her a card for Valentine’s Day. Being the sensitive spouse that I am, I scoffed it off to them being teenagers. I went on to tell her that I’d actually brought our younger son with me when I went to get her card. I told her that I suggested to him that this was the time for him to get her a card, too. He ignored me and, instead, wanted to help me choose my card.

As for my older son, he’s been a somewhat insensitive slug to her for a long while, so I basically said, “What do you expect of him?”

Needless to say, this was NOT the right response. What I needed to declare is that what the boys do at their age is ultimately not my responsibility. But, forcefully add that I was highly displeased by their insensitivity and shared her hurt feelings. After all, it is a reflection on their respect for me and my wife – their step-mom – who has done so much to make our home a much better place for all of us.

My Bad as Dad

Of course I didn’t do that. I realized this error of mine the next day upon talking with a male friend – yet another reason I so strongly advocate men having good men friends in their lives. He set me straight.

My boys didn’t do the right thing for their step-mom but, more important to me, was that I didn’t do my job as their dad. My job is to educate them in proper behavior in all walks of life. My dad made sure I got my mom gifts for all the major holidays. I fell down on my responsibility to do the same, using the “they’re teenagers” as my justification.

I then had separate conversations with the boys, telling them that they had let me down and hurt my wife, their step-mom. They were defensive, naturally, saying that in their minds Valentine’s Day was a romantic holiday between romantic partners. I informed them that they were wrong, especially since they knew that their step-mom didn’t feel that way.

Finally, both boys owned their failure to support their step-mom and my wife. My younger son followed up with a private apology to my wife. My older son wasn’t so direct and simply spent a few minutes alone with her – his way of apologizing. I am hoping each will make further amends soon.

I brought home a bouquet of roses the next day, to make my amends…