I'm no good at this kind of thing. The boxes I see in my head, neatly wrapped to provide a canvas for the kids to decorate, a tidy slot for Valentines to be deposited notched into the lid, inevitably give way to hasty and awkward realities. This year Archer's third grade class is giving awards for boxes in several categories; what does that mean for me, I wonder? How much am I supposed to suggest to him to put him somewhere in the running -- or even help him to be a contender?
Whether it's laziness, incompetence, or a respect for the purity of the competition, I always end up helping as little as my conscience will let me get away with. I wrap boxes and lids with foil and tissue paper to provide a surface on which markers and stickers can get purchase; I set up whatever random materials I can pull together and help if the kids express an interest; I do the cutting of cardboard. I suggest that attention be paid to blank sections. I try to make sure they don't head to school with a box on which the Stride-Rite logo comprises the dominant graphic element. But I don't sit down and make tissue flowers with them or cut out paper hearts. I leave any such ideas up to the kids. I figure that someday Cady Gray, at least, might say something like "Last year Sunny had lacey paper hearts on her box. Can we do that this year?" And then I'll do my best to facilitate my little girl's dreams.
When they take their boxes filled with Hello Kitty and sports sticker Valentines (respectively) to their classes next week, what they're carrying with be largely their own work and their own scattered, random vision. Is it conceivable they'll wind up shamed or disappointed? I doubt Archer could summon the social sensitivity for such an emotion, and I hope Cady Gray is too young and too generous in spirit. And if so, I'll have gotten away with my half-hearted Valentine's box effort for one more year.