A Summer of Yes

Before summer began when my daughter was seven, I sat down with several catalogs from local kids’ venues to determine what she’d like to do. No, she said after each description I read. No to gymnastics camp, no to art camp, no to African drumming camp. “We did all that in school!” she said. “I just want a break!” (Really? The African drumming too?) While kudos are due to our public elementary school if she really believed she’d “done it all” by the end of first grade, I think there was another reason.

All school-year long she’s cried after reports from my 3-year-old on what we did during the day. It could be as simple as “we walked down the street” and she’d launch into a tear-filled tirade about how unfair it was, and how she NEVER gets to do ANYTHING because she’s in school. I think that “today we dug ditches” would have provoked a similar response.

O.K., so she felt left out. It meant that I, the stay-at-home parent, had to be a little more creative in finding activities about which a boy and a girl four years apart could be equally excited.

Then we read the picture book, Yes Day, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. As the story goes, on one day a year, the boy’s mom says “yes” to whatever he asks, including: “Can we have a food fight?” “Can I invent my own game?” “Can I have pizza for breakfast?” and so forth.

My kids asked if they, too, could have “Yes Day” at home. My first instinct was “no,” but as I reviewed what the boy asked for, I realized I was O.K. with all of it…just on different days. So, I told them that throughout the summer, they could pick one “Yes Day” question a day until the book was finished.

You’d think I’d said we were going to Disney World. “Best summer ever!” my daughter said. (“Cheaper than camp!” I was thinking.) So, we had a food fight in the yard one day (I got to choose the foods—cooked, plain pasta and peanuts), they invented their own game with objects found around the house, we ate pizza for breakfast and on and on. And then they laughed and whispered about which “Yes Day” activities I might allow them to repeat. Together. Instead of fighting and saying how unfair everything was.

I was encouraged that we came up with simple activities that yielded as much enthusiasm as our best vacation. But most of all, I loved seeing my kids becoming friends for real. And that makes the ultimate “Yes Day” for Mom.