I was not what you would call cool, sociable, or even approachable in middle school and high school. I wore (and still wear) a great deal of black, had major Resting Bitch Face, and put duck tape on all of my clothes as a fashion statement. I also did musical theater, so you can only imagine how many people were lining up to be my Valentine every year.
So when the eighth grade Valentine’s Day Dance rolled around, and my other equally weird friend and I found ourselves miraculously on student council, we knew what the mature response to our lack of Valentines would be– tear down all of the paper hearts in the gym and replace them with broken or black hearts with My Chemical Romance quotes written all over them. You guys, I thought this was the coolest and most rebellious thing ever. EVER. Still, no one noticed us. We were crushed.
When I taught afternoon kindergarten last year, I thought a lot about this. I didn’t want to pass on my lack of excitement or unmet expectations to children, so I took a full-on approach to it. I turned February into the “Month of Love” and dedicated each week to a different kind of love– those of friendship, family, community, and self. We spent each week completely immersing ourselves in our love and appreciation for each of these. I’ll explain.
Friendship is an integral part of our lives. Even a self-proclaimed introvert who loves alone time like myself knows the importance of having solid, dependable friendships. I send Valentines to my dearest friends every year, even if it is a week late. I want them to know how much I value their support and presence in my life. Another friend of mine and I have been spending V-Day with each other since we met freshman year of college. We make inappropriate and unusual gifts for each other and it’s beyond fun.
Family is another important one, though for some it might be more tied to friendship than life and blood family. I am fortunate enough to have a close relationship with my family. Usually, we spend time together making cards for others or doing our own projects. I usually send a text or write a card to express my constant love for them, but I also try to pick up flowers or coffee as well.
Community is a tough one, especially if you live in an area to which you are new or feel unwelcome. I choose to make this one my “work” category. The kids in my class made cards and put them in random cubbies around the school, as well as in each classroom. Some said “You are loved!” or “You’re nice!” but others were more personal. One of my favorites was when a little girl wrote “You seem very nice and I want to be your friend now.” I like to give my coworkers affirmations or ask how they are doing. You’d be surprised at how much of a difference it has made in my relationships at work.
And lastly, self-love. This was important to model to the kids. Practicing self-care and asking for help are so important, and if buying yourself that frappuccino or letting yourself take a nap on your lunch break is going to make your day easier, do it. Go easy on yourself. Recognize how much you’ve accomplished and how far you’ve come.
This Valentine’s Day, I challenge you to trying to express love and appreciation for each of these categories. Try seeing it as a day of service. It’s a good way to spend a day that could be stressful or lonely, but it’s also a great way to spend a Tuesday. Plus, it’s better than drinking too much Chardonnay and eating a box of Peppermint JoJos, and you don’t feel all sick and bloated the next day.