I read once, somewhere, to ask your child, “What was the best part of your day?” Not, “Did you have a nice day?” which tends to elicit a one-word response, but “What was the best part?” because that question can open up a bigger, more meaningful conversation.
Sometimes, I do ask my children the question, “What was the best part of your day?” Other times, my 8 p.m. inquiries are more along the lines of, “Why did you just push your sister?” or “Did you remember to brush your teeth?”
But sometimes, sometimes, everyday life lends itself to moments of reflection deeper than sibling shenanigans and personal hygiene.
On Saturday evening, I asked my 6-year-old daughter, “What was the best part of your day?” I was giving her and my little daughter, Anna, a bath.
Grace thought for a minute.
“Was it our bike ride?” I prompted. That morning, the girls rode their bikes along the nature trail near our house. I walked along with them, until Anna asked me to carry her (and her trike) the rest of the way.
(If you and I are Facebook friends, then you already know this, because I posted a picture of this moment after it happened. 😉 )
Grace shook her head—no, not the bike ride. I rinsed shampoo out of her hair.
“Was it your play date?” Two girls from Grace’s class had come over to play that afternoon. All three kids kindly included Anna in their fun: playing with dolls, make-believe games of “Sleepover” and “Firefighters,” simply running around in the backyard.
(Like most younger siblings, Anna believed her big sister’s friends were there to play with her as much as they were there to play with Grace. Ignorance is bliss.)
“I loved the play date, but…no, that wasn’t the best part either.”
I handed Grace a washcloth. “I know,” I said, smiling. “It was when Dad came home.” Stanton had been traveling for work and walked through the front door moments earlier.
Grace smiled back at me. “Actually, Mom,” she said, “the best part was the hot dogs.”
Grace nodded. “Yes.”
Around the block from us is a fire station. The red-brick building was built nearly 100 years ago, and is staffed by volunteer firefighters. Throughout the year, the firefighters host a number of community events for our neighborhood: a biweekly fish fry during Lent, educational workshops for kids, a bounce house at Halloween.
As it happened that Saturday, the firefighters were holding an open house to recruit new volunteers. Grace, Anna and I saw them outside when we were heading back home after our bike ride (which had turned into my lugging Anna and her trike, remember).
The firefighters waved us over. I could feel sweat pouring down my face. Great—I was looking presentable as usual.
“Hi, guys,” I said, setting Anna down for a minute. “Sorry, but now’s not a great time for me to volunteer.” (I knew they were working on their female enrollment.)
The firefighters smiled. “No problem. Would you all like some hot dogs?”
Grace and Anna exchanged a glance, then a smile.
“We have a lot,” they told us. “And Gatorade too.”
“Grace!” Anna exclaimed. “We love Gatorade!”
“And hot dogs,” Grace added. So the three of us sat down outside the fire station for an impromptu lunch of hot dogs and Gatorade. When we picked up our short walk home a little later, the girls concluded the firefighters were very nice.
(But let’s be serious, folks: Who doesn’t love firefighters?)
I could feel sweat pouring down my face. Great—I was looking presentable as usual.
“That was the best part of your day?” I asked Grace that night. “Why?”
Grace shrugged. “It was nice. I love hot dogs, and you never buy us Gatorade.”
“Mom!” Anna waved at me, reminding me she was there too. “We love Gatorade!”
I’ve written before about “the little things.” About how little things (like an unexpected hot dog and some Gatorade) can make us smile, can stick with us.
I’ve also written about moments in our lives that become stories, when we never might have guessed they’d be story-worthy. But then they were.
So I’m trying not to repeat myself here. Trying to find a new inspiration to pass along.
Here’s what I’ve come up with, friends.
Sometimes, things don’t go according to plan. (Stanton was supposed to come home on Friday, not Saturday, but his work plans changed.) And then you try to make the best of things, and Plan B falls apart too. (Carrying Anna and her trike for what felt like miles.) And then—then—out of the blue, someone asks if you’d like a hot dog.
Put the kid down. Let the trike fall to the sidewalk. Let Plan C be that hot dog.
Sometimes, the best part of your day will be a hot dog. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
Photo credit: Pixabay
Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “What Happens Next.” A story that’s heartfelt, relevant and can’t-put-it-down good.