Counting the Valentines


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Valentine’s Day used to be my least favorite holiday. When the teacher set up that big box with the mail slot in the top, I feared that once again I’d put more valentines into it than I would get out of it. The rest of the year, I felt variously loved or unloved, but these feelings were subjective and unmeasured.

Valentine’s Day was different. My yearning to be liked turned that cheery heart-covered contrivance on the teacher’s desk into a ballot box — for a referendum on my personhood. I wasn’t an outcast or anything like that; it was just that I had a burning desire to be everybody’s favorite person all the time. Mostly I tried to cultivate popularity by clowning — superbly timed and exquisitely crafted wisecracks in class, slapstick stumbling en route to the pencil sharpener, that kind of thing.

I was the hardest-working kid in the school (including the students who did their homework), but my classmates took me for granted. Yes, they laughed, but they didn’t love me.

One day in fifth grade, I took it a step beyond mildly disruptive silliness and did something shameful. I sucker-punched the least-liked boy in class in front of as large an audience as possible. (This kind of cheap grandstanding could have been the start of a brilliant political career, but the principal showed me the wrongness of it, and I rededicated myself to unrelenting buffoonery.) Popularity is like a bank loan. The more desperately you need it, the less likely you are to get it.

Now with kids of my own, I’m not afraid that they will be unpopular. I’m afraid that they have inherited my sad need for popularity. One Saturday morning, 6-year-old Marie ran in the front door wailing in anguish.

“What happened?” I asked, checking for blood.

She sobbed, “I d-d-don’t know who-oo-oo to play with. If I play with Heather, Billy will be mad. And if I play with Billy, Heather will be mad.”

Heather and Billy live up the street from us. Because they hate each other, when the neighborhood kids play “house,” Heather and Billy pretend they are a divorced couple and Marie is their child.

“They fight over me,” she said. “Heather wants me to live in the playhouse with her, and Billy wants me to live in the garage with him. I don’t know what to do!”

Uh oh, I thought. Are her friends attracted to her because she’s too docile to stand up to them? Too intent on being universally liked? Did she inherit my problem?

I needn’t have worried. Over the years, Marie has been happy having a few loyal, intimate friends and a wider network of what she calls “my cool friends.” As teenagers, they all wore black and wanted to live in the city. Now in their 20s, they do live in the city, gathering in each other’s apartments to talk about art and theater over wine and lovingly prepared dinners made of beets and chard and other bad-tasting things.

Our youngest, Wendy, can’t stand to be alone. But her relationships are stormy and dramatic with lots of turnover and computer-enhanced animosity. She has been pursuing the sort of popularity you see in teen movies — the kind that’s about power and status and not about being liked.

However, halfway through high school, Wendy is starting to figure out that real friendship has nothing to do with defeating your enemies and eating their hearts. So there’s hope.

Our middle child, Sally, never needed my concern. As early as age 3, she showed an iron-clad, inner-directed spirit. Valentines? So what? When Sally ran for student council president in seventh grade, it wasn’t because she required approval; it was because she wanted to run things. With her cheerful strength, she has always had all the friends she needs. And she gets them by the box-lot — from summer camp, marching band and, currently, college-campus political organizations.

Loving parents want to see their children turn out better than themselves, and it’s nice to see some victories. But my own progress has been slow and my recovery incomplete. In other words, any valentines e-mailed to RickEpstein@yahoo.com would be more than welcome.

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Calendar

August 2019

Join Mindful Families of Durham, a Buddhist-inspired spiritual community that supports area parents, caregivers, and their children in the practice of mindfulness and the understanding of the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Erwin Road
Durham, NC  27705
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Sponsor: Mindful Families of Durham
Contact Name: Adam, Laura, Josh, Sumi
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Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
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Slither your way up to Walnut Creek Wetland Park to celebrate snakes with us. Learn about snake habitat, the differences between venomous and nonvenomous snakes, and meet some of our friendly snake...

Cost: $5 per family

Where:
Walnut Creek Wetland Park
950 Peterson Street
Raleigh, NC  27610
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Telephone: 919-996-2760
Contact Name: Stacie Hagwood
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Make a tree with your best friends' names. Ages 2-6 with caregiver. Register online. Choose course #125008.

Cost: $10/resident, $13/nonresident

Where:
Bond Park Community Center
801 High House Rd.
Cary, NC  27511
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Ages 11-17 make spicy foods inspired by the South. Register online. Choose course #124744.

Cost: $44/resident, $57/nonresident

Where:
Herbert C. Young Community Center
101 Wilkinson Ave.
Cary, NC
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Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
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Cost: Free

Where:
Harris Lake County Park
2112 County Park Dr.
New Hill, NC  27562
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Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
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Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


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Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

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Stop in during one of our Back to School Open Houses!  Meet our instructors, tune your instrument, learn a quick song and more!. Aug 12th 7-8:30 Brass & Woodwinds Aug 17th 12:30-2:00...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bach to Rock Music School
9587 US 64
Apex, NC  27523
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Sponsor: Bach To Rock Music School
Telephone: 919-446-5386
Contact Name: Kelly Foster
Website »

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Cost: Free

Where:
Locopops Dessert Cafe
2618 Hillsborough St.
Durham, NC  27705
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Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Website »

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Bring your budding naturalist to the park to learn about our scaly reptile friends, snakes! A craft, engaging activity or story and a guided greenway walk (weather permitting) through the wetland...

Cost: $2 per child

Where:
Walnut Creek Wetland Park
950 Peterson Street
Raleigh, NC  27610
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Telephone: 919-996-2760
Contact Name: Stacie Hagwood
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Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

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Did you know that most of the world’s data is stored in something called a database? This includes your school grades, Yelp’s list of local pizza shops and music downloads on your...

Cost: Free: registration required

Where:
, NC  27560


Website »

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Stop in during one of our Back to School Open Houses!  Meet our instructors, tune your instrument, learn a quick song and more!. Aug 12th 7-8:30 Brass & Woodwinds Aug 17th 12:30-2:00...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bach to Rock Music School
9587 US 64
Apex, NC  27523
View map »


Sponsor: Bach To Rock Music School
Telephone: 919-446-5386
Contact Name: Kelly Foster
Website »

More information

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Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
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Enjoy tea time for the whole family. Samples of hot tea, cold tea, and kombucha will be provided, along with games and family fun.

Cost: Free

Where:
IngenuiTea Kombucha Coffee & Tea
514 E Williams St
APEX, NC  27502
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Sponsor: IngenuiTea Brews
Telephone: 919-438-3684
Contact Name: Mark Poole
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Stop in during one of our Back to School Open Houses!  Meet our instructors, tune your instrument, learn a quick song and more!. Aug 12th 7-8:30 Brass & Woodwinds Aug 17th 12:30-2:00...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bach to Rock Music School
9587 US 64
Apex, NC  27523
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Sponsor: Bach To Rock Music School
Telephone: 919-446-5386
Contact Name: Kelly Foster
Website »

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Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
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This program is designed to move at a toddler’s pace: Run. Stop. Pick dandelions. Run. Climb on a rock. Find an interesting leaf! Join others for an easy-paced hike around the greenway...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Walnut Creek Wetland Park
950 Peterson Street
Raleigh, NC  27610
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Telephone: 919-996-2760
Contact Name: Stacie Hagwood

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Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
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Website »

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Parent and child ages 2-5 water plants in the native wildflower gardens. Register online. Choose course #124908.

Cost: Free

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
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Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

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Stop in during one of our Back to School Open Houses!  Meet our instructors, tune your instrument, learn a quick song and more!. Aug 12th 7-8:30 Brass & Woodwinds Aug 17th 12:30-2:00...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bach to Rock Music School
9587 US 64
Apex, NC  27523
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Sponsor: Bach To Rock Music School
Telephone: 919-446-5386
Contact Name: Kelly Foster
Website »

More information

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August 16th is National Tell a Joke Day. Come to the Finley Center anytime during the day to share some jokes with the park community. A large board will be set up in the Exhibit Hall where...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

Stop in during one of our Back to School Open Houses!  Meet our instructors, tune your instrument, learn a quick song and more!. Aug 12th 7-8:30 Brass & Woodwinds Aug 17th 12:30-2:00...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bach to Rock Music School
9587 US 64
Apex, NC  27523
View map »


Sponsor: Bach To Rock Music School
Telephone: 919-446-5386
Contact Name: Kelly Foster
Website »

More information

Take a hike after dark and enjoy the sounds of the night along the American Tobacco Trail! We’ll let the light of an almost full moon guide us as we walk to the Beaver Creek bridge and back...

Cost: Free

Where:
American Tobacco Trail
1309 New Hill-Olive Chapel Rd.
Apex, NC  27502
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Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park and the American Tobacco Trail
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
Website »

More information

See the blockbuster movie at Booth Amphitheatre. Purchase tickets online. 

Cost: $5 for ages 13 and older. Free for ages 12 and younger.

Where:
Booth Amphitheatre
8003 Regency Pkwy.
Cary, NC  27518
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Website »

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Shop for local handmade arts and crafts from local vendors. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Durham Central Park
501 Foster St.
Durham, NC  27701
View map »


Website »

More information

August 16th is National Tell a Joke Day. Come to the Finley Center anytime during the day to share some jokes with the park community. A large board will be set up in the Exhibit Hall where...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

The Carolina Homeschool Conference 2019 welcomes all homeschoolers for a day of education, inspiration and connection. There will be six workshops, a keynote address and a Q&A panel featuring...

Cost: $32 before July 1, $40 after July 1

Where:
Hope Community Church
2080 E. Williams St.
Apex, NC  27539
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Sponsor: Carolina Homeschool Conference, LLC
Contact Name: Laina Yeisley
Website »

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Be the person in your neighborhood that can identify ALL the trees! Join an NC Forest Service Ranger for family-friendly tree ID that will teach you how to recognize common trees in our area...and...

Cost: Free

Where:
American Tobacco Trail
1309 New Hill-Olive Chapel Rd.
Apex, NC  27502
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Sponsor: Harris Lake County Park and the American Tobacco Trail
Telephone: 919-387-4342
Contact Name: Joanne St. Clair
Website »

More information

Kindergarten students entering the traditional school calendar practice a lunch line, get moving at recess, hop on a school bus and more.  

Cost: Free

Where:
Marbles Kids Museum
201 E. Hargett St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Website »

More information

Step back in time with our 19th-century costumed interpreters and watch the millstones at work grinding corn into meal. Tour fee: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60 & over), $3/Child (ages 7-16),...

Cost: $5/Adult, 4$/Senior (60+), $3/Child (7-16), 6&Younger Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Ages 1-5 and caregiver delight in the discoveries of nature. Register online. Choose course #124955.

Cost: $8/resident, $10/nonresident

Where:
Stevens Nature Center/Hemlock Bluffs
2616 Kildaire Farm Rd.
Cary, NC
View map »


Telephone: 919-387-5980
Website »

More information

Come learn all about how red wiggler worms can recycle your leftover food into soil. One lucky family will win a new worm bin (minus the worms). Resources for where to purchase or order worms will...

Cost: $5 per family

Where:
Walnut Creek Wetland Park
950 Peterson Street
Raleigh, NC  27610
View map »


Telephone: 919-996-2760
Contact Name: Stacie Hagwood
Website »

More information

Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Learn more about pollinators during this family friendly event. Sample and buy local honey and honey-based products.

Cost: Free

Where:
State Farmers Market
1201 Agriculture St.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Website »

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Ages 18 months-5 years with special needs enjoy educational and therapeutic toys with caregiver. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Flaherty Park Community Center
1226 N. White St.
Wake Forest, NC  27587
View map »


Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

For almost 200 years, farmers brought their wheat and corn to what is now Yates Mill to have their grains ground into flour and meal. Today, you can stop by the Yates Mill visitor center to see a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

Step back in time with our 19th-century costumed interpreters and watch the millstones at work grinding corn into meal. Tour fee: $5/Adult, $4/Senior (ages 60 & over), $3/Child (ages 7-16),...

Cost: $5/Adult, 4$/Senior (60+), $3/Child (7-16), 6&Younger Free

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Sponsor: Historic Yates Mill County Park
Telephone: 919-856-6675
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
The Big Field at Dorothea Dix Park
101 Blair Dr.
Raleigh, NC  27603
View map »


Website »

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Cost: $25 first child, $20 each additional child

Where:
East Cloud Kungfu, LLC
5655-A Western Blvd
Raleigh, NC  27606
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Sponsor: East Cloud Kungfu, LLC
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Cost: Free

Where:
Bach to Rock Music School
9587 US 64
Apex, NC  27523
View map »


Sponsor: Bach To Rock Music School
Telephone: 919-446-5386
Contact Name: Kelly Foster
Website »

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