The tuck-in is a crucial part of every parent’s nightly routine, a delicate process by which clingy and energetic children must be persuaded that the absolute best thing in the world to do is go to sleep by themselves. If you get it just right, a night’s peace just may be in order. Screw up even the tiniest detail, however, and you can forget sleep. For the both of you.
The rituals differ for my two children in detail, though the overall process is pretty much the same: prayers, story, small talk, covers, kiss, goodnight. Not much to it on the surface maybe, but still harder than it looks. Repetition is key.
My son likes to recount his day just before bed. It’s as if he needs some sort of confirmation that everything he did and said and thought was worthy of my attention and comment (which is, by the way). A few nights ago, the normal exploits of eating breakfast, exploring his grandparents’ yard, going to preschool, and taking a nap seemed particularly stimulating, told to me with much body language and laughter.
“Sounds like you had a good day then,” I told him.
“I did?” he asked.
“Sure,” I said. Then, “Didn’t you?”
“I don’t know.” He wrinkled his forehead and thought about it. “Maybe. I’m not sure. What makes a good day?”
I opened my mouth to answer, but only a breath came out. What makes a good day? What kind of a question was that?
“I’ll have to get back with you on that one, Buddy,” I finally said.
“Okay, Daddy. Night and love you.”
“Night and love you, too,” I said.
Though my son’s night was flawless and complete, mine wasn’t. I couldn’t get his question out of my head because it seemed the perfect sort of question to ponder upon for a while—simple, broad, and meaningful.
What’s a good day? As much as I thought about it, I couldn’t come up with an answer. Which was a little troubling. I prayed every morning for God to give me a good day, I’d tell my family after work that I had a good day, and I’d thank God every night for giving me a good day.
But I was beginning to realize that I didn’t really know what I was praying for, what sort of answer I was giving to my family, and what exactly I was thanking God for giving me.
So I thought I’d conduct a little experiment. I’d take the next couple of days and write down everything that happened. Then, at the end of the night, I’d take a look at my list, ask myself if it was a good day or not, and try to figure out why.
Day one was a Sunday. My list: Church, lunch (cheeseburgers!), a visit to my parents, a walk around the neighborhood, coloring with the kids, ballgame, bed. Not bad.
But good? Surprisingly, no. My day, I found, wasn’t really good or bad. Just…okay.
Then, day two. Monday. My list: get up at oh-dark-thirty, go to work, find a missing package for a student, listen to someone talk about her mother’s failing health, rush across town on an important errand for someone else, come home, collapse on the couch, hold my daughter because she’s sick, tuck the kids in, go to bed.
It sounded like a long, hard, stressful day. And maybe it was. But it was also a good day no matter how it sounded, and I didn’t know why.
How could a busy Monday be better than a lazy Sunday?
But maybe not. Sunday was a Me day, really. I did what I wanted and when. Monday? Monday seemed more about helping people, whether that help be as big as driving across town for someone else or as small as listening to a troubled friend. Maybe that was all the difference.
What makes a good day? I know the answer now. And when my son gets up in the morning, I’ll tell him.
Because what makes a good day isn’t what happens to you, but because of you.
p.s.- I’ve had the pleasure of having more than a few good days lately, though the reasons perhaps had little to do with me. I’ve received a lot of emails about the missing comments, and all were humbly appreciated.
One in particular came from a reader who confessed to being on the fence when it comes to God. My blog, she said, has helped to strengthen her fragile faith. Not necessarily my posts, though. It was the comments that you all so kindly contribute. I never paused to consider the fact that people enjoyed the comments just as much as the content, and in many cases even more so. After reading that, I felt pretty selfish. Yet another reminder that it ain’t all about me.
So to her and to you all: please, comment away…