Happy Valentine's Day

Little girl puts up the letters LOVE on a window for Valentines day, focus on hands holding an E.
Annie Otzen/Moment/Getty Images

To My Daughters On Valentine's Day: Will You Always Be Mine?

I will forever celebrate you.

“Will you be mine?” is my favorite Valentine’s Day expression. It feels like the ultimate question of love. Will you be mine? Will you let me love you? Will you be my person, the one I care for, the one I think about at night as I’m drifting off to sleep? It’s been written a thousand ways on Valentine’s Day cards, stitched onto a million stuffed bears, drizzled in chocolate on fancy plates where you pay far too much money for a Valentine’s Day dinner. And this year, I’m going to say it yet again — to my children. My little valentines.

Forget every romantic comedy — there has never been a love story like the ones that were stitched into the universe on the days I met each of my girls. The weight of their bodies on my chest, the way they looked up at me, the unraveling of my heart as it realized, “Oh. It’s you. It’s always been you.” Becoming a mother has been my life’s greatest work, my most cherished moment. And if Valentine’s Day is the day to celebrate love and all of the glorious things about it, then it’s the day to celebrate my three girls. To marvel at this family my husband and I have created, to feel secure in the love all five of us have together.

“Will you be mine?” I want to ask my oldest every day, because I’m still just in disbelief that her creative, insightful, empathetic little self came from me. “Will you be mine?” I whisper to my middle girl, who is so funny and vibrant and full of life that I am in absolute awe of her. “Will you be mine?” I think in the dark as I rock my baby, still completely enamored with how she smells and her tiny toes and the way she clings to me when someone else starts talking to her.

Valentine’s Day is a holiday that gets far more hate than it deserves. Think about your 15-year-old self on Valentine’s Day. Was there anything better than being in an AP History class and wondering if a student council member would bring you a dozen carnations from your crush? Think about your 7-year-old self, dropping folded-up Valentine’s Day cards into every classmate’s meticulously decorated shoebox, your heart hammering with anticipation.

And then think about how none of that compares to the love you have for your children, for your little family of loves.

The author with her husband and three daughters.Courtesy of Samantha Darby

“Will you be mine?” I telepathically message my husband when I watch him on the baby monitor, reading books to our girls. “Will you be mine?” I think as we sit together on the couch, covered in snotty children, Cocomelon blaring from the TV. “Will you be mine?” I ask, after we’ve tucked all of the babies into bed and there is Chinese food on the way and he scratches my back until I fall asleep.

Valentine’s Day feels bigger than usual this year. It’s our first as a family of five, the last one with a tiny baby in our home, the start of a new era for our family where our girls are big enough to know the day and anticipate all it could bring. And that doesn’t mean our celebration has to be expensive or include helium or even a fancy dinner. I don’t ever want to feel pressured to celebrate a holiday, and I don’t ever want to be so cynical of a “commercialized” day that it sucks out all the joy of tiny candy hearts. Instead, I want to think about the best kind of love. The unconditional, unwavering love I have for my family, for my girls. I want to make them cinnamon rolls and promise them that, even though a future valentine might break their heart in their AP History class or a BFF might pick a fight with them on the playground, that I will always be there, ready and waiting with a giant red heart, asking them, “Will you be mine?”

My forever valentines.