February has arrived, and I’m downing Reese’s hearts as I write this. You guys, VALENTINE’S DAY IS COMING. I say this not to make you panic, and not to initiate the “UGH, I hate that Hallmark holiday” naysayers…but to let you in on a secret. Chances are very, very high that you already have at least one Valentine if you’re reading this. And chances are even higher that your Valentine(s) would love nothing more than to go all-out celebrating this day of love with you.

In my first year as a teacher, fresh out of undergrad, I was single on Valentine’s day. I had no fun dinner plans (um, I was likely still in my classroom at dinnertime that year…), no one was sending me roses at work, and if you’d asked me, I would have said that I didn’t have a Valentine. I paint a sad picture, no? However, this was possibly the best Valentine’s Day, or at least one of the best, ever. You see, I quickly realized I had not one, not two, but 18 Valentines! The kids in my class that year made it impossible to feel sorry for myself. They showered me with handmade cards, carnations, tiny boxes of conversation hearts, and sticky cupcakes from tiny frosting-covered hands. By the end of the day, my desk was literally covered in adorable surprises from my many, many Valentines. We wrote poems together and decorated the classroom. It was wonderful.

Ever since that day, I’ve seen Valentine’s Day not as some romantic day where I feel “owed” a fancy dinner, flowers, and wine, but as a day where I can show my husband and children how happy I am to have them in my life. After years of pre-kid Valentine dinners at restaurants, where we were hurried along by waitstaff hoping to seat the next couple and turn over more tables, we spend this day at home celebrating our family. My kids always list it as one of their favorite holidays, sometimes above Christmas. Our plans are simple and flexible: we fill the day with unexpected, fun surprises. Past surprises have included handmade cards, fancy cupcakes for dessert, cherry soda with dinner, heart-shaped pizzas, new Valentine socks waiting in the sock drawer, heart-shaped lunch box notes, fuzzy new pjs waiting on beds at bedtime, etc. We mix it up each year, and just plan fun things to brighten the day for each other. So if you’re single this Valentine’s Day, do not despair. Celebrate this day of love with the little people who love you unconditionally and would be delighted to spend the day together!