Last week, I had one near-perfect day. Everything I did throughout the day turned out well! In the morning we had a crazy-fun time hosting nine four-year-olds at our house for a preschool session about how God created each of us. Afterwards the girls and I recovered with lunch, naps, and reading books together; then the girls played while I cleaned up a bit. I was delighted to realize we had enough time in our afternoon to make a quick delivery to a good friend on the other side of town, and even more delighted that we were able to visit with her & her kiddos for twenty minutes before heading home. I managed, shockingly, to make a quick & nutritious dinner that nobody complained about. At the end of the day, Pete walked in with roses for me (the next day was our anniversary), and since the girls had actually eaten their fill during “first dinner,” they played happily in the living room while Pete & I enjoyed a peaceful dinner together. When we told Maggie she had ten more minutes until bedtime, she asked if we could have family prayer together before bed. I couldn’t have been happier about our fun, productive, wildly successful day … and then it all unraveled.
“Family prayer” at our house is a pretty simple, casual affair. We only do it once a week or so, when we happen to have enough time after dinner. We sing a praise & worship song, which Maggie dances to, and then read a short Scripture before praying for intentions and closing with another song (and dance).
Sometime during the past few months, however, the “Maggie dancing” portion of family prayer has taken on too much importance in Maggie’s sweet little head. More than once, she has gotten herself ready for family prayer by going into the dress-up clothes for a princess dress, so as to be properly attired for the performance she is about to give. We’ve vetoed the dressing up and we’ve explained why, but what can you do? – the girl loves to dance in a princess dress.
So last week, the conversation went like this:
“Mama, let’s have family prayer!”
“Sure, sweetheart, that’s a great idea!”
“Great, I’ll go get a dress-”
“No, sweetheart, we don’t wear dress-up clothes for family prayer. Come on, let’s go to the living room. What song do you want to sing?”
I don’t quite remember the details after this point, but I think we picked a song that we too slow for Maggie’s taste, or perhaps we didn’t pay her sufficient attention while she danced – something set her off, and she started (poor four-year-old girlie!) to pout and/or argue. Calmly, lovingly, we tried to explain to her that family prayer was about honoring Jesus, and not just about watching Maggie perform. It didn’t work. Bad mood & bad behavior continued until finally Pete told her firmly, “OK, Maggie, that’s it. Family prayer is over. It’s time for bed.”
Maggie never recovered. Again, the details are a blur, but suffice it to say it was a really, really bad bedtime. And in the midst of it – during some loud, crying moment – I found myself really sad that our great day had been ruined like this. We were having such a perfect day. Why did she have to go and spoil it?
After the crying was over, though, I realized our day really wasn’t spoiled, for a couple of reasons. First, Maggie’s meltdown was triggered by loving, careful, and necessary correction from her parents. We didn’t yell or speak harshly, and we didn’t ask something unreasonable of her; we said gently what needed to be said, and enforced what needed to be enforced. It was sad, but really not unexpected, that she took it so badly. I don’t take correction very well either, and I’ve got thirty years on the girl! Correcting a preschooler’s behavior, and then dealing with a preschooler’s natural reaction to that, is something I need to take in stride.
Second, one bad moment does not make a bad day – and it doesn’t even have to “ruin” a good day – and who says a day has to be categorized as good or bad anyway? I don’t have to remember that day as nearly perfect; I can simply rejoice in all the perfect little parts of it.
It’s not usually this black & white for me. Most of my days are not so stunningly successful with a small side of really awful for contrast. But each day has its ups & downs, and I tend to pay too much attention to the downs.
Why is this important? Because I want – for my own sanity and well-being, and for the sake of praising God – to more often say, “That was a good day.” How we tell our story – even the mundane stories of our days – has the power to change the story itself. If I tell the story of a good day, somehow it becomes a good day. The experience of it that I remember and think back on and carry with me becomes a good experience and makes me happier with this season of my life as a whole. Even as I typed up the first paragraph above, I felt happy & proud all over again about all the great things we did that day.
But if all I tell you about is my kid’s crazy meltdown, the good parts of the day recede. To be honest, when I first started thinking about this blog post, my train of thought was, I should write about that really good day we had and how it was bad at the end but it wasn’t really that bad. Wait, what was it that was so good about that day again? Even though I’d already had the insight that it really wasn’t a bad day, I still couldn’t remember what had been so good about it. I had to go find an email I’d sent to Pete that afternoon so I could remember what had been so good.
Could I manage to tell the story of a good day … every day? I’m honestly not sure if I’ll be able to manage it. But I think I’ll give it a try.
Here’s today, anyway: today my 19-month old behaved beautifully during my OB appointment, and afterwards we ran some fun errands, including finding cute bows for my three (!) daughters to wear on Christmas. This afternoon I did some laundry, made some baked oatmeal for tomorrow morning, and checked two things off my “before baby comes” list. I even managed to read some books to Elizabeth in between to-do tasks, and when I was busy the girls played together with hardly any fighting at all. We were blessed by a fun & delicious dinner with friends, and then I spent the evening writing.
It was a good day.