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…


  • http://twitter.com/BetsyKCross Betsy Cross

    You bring up an interesting issue. It may be that we’ve done “without” for so long that our expectations have changed, or that I’ve just never thought about receiving gifts as a lack of thoughtfulness on someone else’s part. I really don’t know. I’m still in the cute things made at school being excitedly given to me by my two grade school children. The others give me a smile, a hug, and an I love you. That’s it.
    I think it’s wonderful that you are teaching your boys how to think of how they can give. Something I think I’ve taken for granted!

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      My wife always keeps me in line and reminds me of those parenting things that I may have neglected! I am lucky and my boys are lucky to have such a caring step-mom!

  • http://www.thejackb.com/ The JackB

    Dr. Blunder- That guy should show up as a character in a cartoon.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Maybe he will, JB!

      • http://stanfaryna.wordpress.com Stan Faryna

        Dr. Blunder would be awesome.

        • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

          Isn’t “Dad” already Dr. Blunder?

  • Alyse

    I understand what your saying, and am sorry your wife’s feelings were hurt, but in a way what they did or didn’t do, is probably because of their age. I know as a teenager, my valentine was someone closer to my age. Maybe I was wrong, but I never thought of giving my parents valentines or vice versa. Anyway, don’t be too hard on them or yourself. Remember your time spent there.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      I agree but my wife felt differently and I KNEW that. Part of being in a relationship is doing what the other person likes (if you can)…my boys knew this too. Lesson learned but we’re all good…TY, Alyse!

  • http://stanfaryna.wordpress.com Stan Faryna

    A holiday will often present us with an opportunity to give of ourselves, to declare our love boldy, and to tend to the hearts and spirit of those who are written upon our hearts (by our hand or otherwise). Although the marketplace will recommend a purchased gift, the right words, at the right time, and said in the right way may appreciate (grow in value) more in the hands, heart, and thoughts of the recipient.

    That said, i’m still amused by my conversations with three of my closest male friends on Valentine’s morning. The conversations were identical.

    Me: Dude, do you know what day it is?

    Him: Your birthday?

    Me: Duh! It’s valentine’s day.

    Him: Oh sh–!

    Me: So what are you going to do?

    Him: I don’t know. I’ll think about it after I leave the office.
    Me: It’ll be too late.

    Him: Why are you being such a b—-!

    Me: Because I can’t hang with you tonight if you have an argument. I don’t want you to be alone, tonight.

    Him: GDI! What do I do?

    Me: The minimum: Flowers, chocolate, a bottle of champagne, and a romantic movie.

    Him: WTF!?

    Me: You Got Mail with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.

    Him: Thank you.

    Me: You’re welcome.

    Moral of the story: Valentine’s day is not just about recognizing the opposite sex. It’s also about making sure your buddy’s get through it.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      You’re a good buddy, Stan…I have my “men” from my men’s group to help me remember the things I occasionally forget – PLUS I have my younger son who seems to really be good at these things – usually – not this year, though. Very glad you liked our ski pix and video today! Thx…

  • http://twitter.com/janetcallaway Janet Callaway

    Bruce, aloha. Have to say I rather like Dr. Blunder and think he would be terrific addition to your comic strip. Ahhhh the possibilities.

    The good news, Bruce, is you all learned and you are all fine.

    My suggestion would be to make notes for Valentine’s Day next year so you are prepared. Enjoy a terrific weekend. Aloha. Janet

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Well, Dr. Blunder may have to just appear sometime soon! “Dad’s” alter-ego? 

  • @MimiBakerMN

    I love that you at least tried to ask your wife what was wrong. We appreciate the prying. It shows us that you care. =) And the fact that you have a male friend whom you can talk to about this is awesome. I agree with him and what you did in return with your boys makes you all the more stellar in my book Bruce. These boys need to be taught how to treat others, especially women from their dad. Kudos to you fella!

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Thank you, Mimi. Since she regularly calls me, “Dr. Blunder,” don’t you think it would help if I didn’t have to pry out these thing? Oh, the fun of marriage, relationships, and WOMEN! Hmmm, maybe time for another #DadChat Gender War? Would LOVE my wife to be the other side…but she is still learning SoMe…hoping she’ll join #DadChat this week…

  • http://jong.my/ netster

    I hope everything went well Bruce – after the beautiful bouquet of roses 🙂

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Yes, it did. Amazing what a little and oh-so-easy-to-do gesture can do. My boys both apologized to their step-mom and hopefully will make up for it and then some when her birthday arrives next month. I’ve already been Dr. Blunder with her birthday as I booked a speaking engagement to Dad2.0…ON HER BIRTHDAY! Gonna cost me big-time!

  • Jetts31

    I remember learning that lesson as a teenager too. Amazing the lessons we need to teach our kids aren’t always so out in the open.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      The lessons never stop – that I learn from my wife and that I need to impart on my teen boys!