After reading my Mother’s Day column in Sunday’s Ledger-Enquirer, one of the teachers at Will’s school gave me a book that I’ve been enjoying so far: “The 10 Greatest Gifts I Give My Children: Parenting from the Heart.” The author, Steven Vannoy, talks about the importance of maintaining “forward focus” with kids – always thinking about what’s going right for them rather than constantly nagging them and pointing out what they’re doing wrong or what they shouldn’t be doing. Of course, it’s not exactly a revolutionary idea to ask “What’s the best thing that happened to you today,” as Vannoy suggests, but since I’d just read the suggestion I decided I’d try it on Rob and Will at dinner tonight.
“What was the best thing about your day?” I asked Rob first.
He looked at me quizzically, then told about his most memorable moment of the day when he stepped on a fire ant hill out in the woods on Fort Benning and had to strip down to his boxers as he tried to swat more than a dozen biting ants off off himself. That was the best thing that happened to you? I asked. “It’s all a matter of perspective,” he said half-wisely, half-facetiously. He added later: “It was the part of the day that I felt most alive.” And it did make for a good story. (Although he didn’t really want me to share it. When he learned it was going on the blog he pointed out that this was the first time he’d fallen victim to fire ants. “I kind of pride myself on keeping out of ant hills. You’re going to make me look like a woods doofus.”)
Then it was Will’s turn. “I have five things,” he said. And he proceeded to list all of the VERY recent activities he’d enjoyed: snapping beans with me for our dinner, picking herbs with Daddy for our dinner, stirring the sautéing chicken for dinner, scrubbing the kitchen floors with me during Owen’s nap. “Playing by myself” even made the list. And then he reached back to a highlight from his morning from school. “And my last thing is…” and, here I have to paraphrase but it was a lot of information about plotting with his friend Creight to have Creight come for a sleepover at our house. “He can have one of my vitamins in the morning,” Will said. “I don’t mind.” And he told us: “Creight said he could stay without his mommy and daddy.” (Will’s initial plan for the sleepover, which he’d mentioned to me last night, involved having Creight come sleep in his bed and letting Mark and Ginny, Creights’ parents, sleep with Rob and I in our bedroom. I’d pointed out that we’d probably be a little overcrowded if we tried to do that.)
One of my highlights for the day, which I recounted for the family, was watching just how totally amused Owen was after he peed on me and himself during a diaper change. He laughed like he’d played a wonderful trick on me, and it was such a charming laugh that I actually started to believe that indeed it had been wonderful to get peed on.
So I’m not so sure Rob and I were very good at modeling “highlights” of the days – with our stories of being bitten by fire ants and getting peed on, but it all made for interesting dinner conversation – and at the risk of getting formulaic, I’d like to make favorite things about our day a common dinnertime topic from now on.