The Revival Of The Yes Day

It has been just about a year since this post was written. I can honestly say that we still talk about it all the time. This summer, we have vowed to do it with each of our children individually. What is truly amazing about doing this is that we have found that the requests we receive are simple. The number one thing our kids want is time with us. Not things or stuff. Just time together without interruption. Have you ever done a yes day with your child? Tell us about it in the comments.

Lisa told me a few months ago about a blog post she read about asking your children if they had a day where you told them they could do anything and you would say yes (within obvious reason) what kinds of things the children would come up with that would surprise you.

I had been thinking about it off and on since she told me about it, because I say no way too much. As Kelly Corrigan so eloquently and aptly put it in Lift, it is my default answer to everything. I can usually imagine before the question is even out of their mouths that it will require something from me, something I don’t want to give right then, probably time, more likely attention. When I say it like this, it sounds so incredibly selfish, I realize, but it is more than that. I mean more than just the attention or time that is required with those requests, those needs of theirs; it is the fact that the majority of what they want to do is unappealing to me. Hey mom, want to play Barbies with us? No. Want to play Legos? Not really. Want to get out our very large craft kit and watch us make a really big mess of the kitchen table for thirty minutes creating a masterpiece that we will then cry buckets over when you throw it away? Gosh, I don’t think so.

And even when it is an appealing option like snuggling on Emma’s bed having “secret story time” as Abby calls it or playing our new favorite trio game of “Zingo”, I still feel myself thinking…just a minute girls, I need to start some laundryunload the dishwasherpick up these toys, finish this game of Words With Friends and then we can play, read, snuggle, be together. And they wait, sometimes patiently, more often than not, with increasing impatience as the “just a minute” turns to ticks of the clock never-ending for them. The moment that I am free, the moment that I am theirs, the moment that I turn my no into a yes, they are all-in with me. They are one hundred percent into whatever we are doing, and I can feel their little love tanks refilling with my presence. With my time. With my attention. Because the truth is that they do not care for a moment what the activity is at all, they only care that they are doing it with me.

I took some quiet time with Emma and asked her what sorts of activities she would be likely to ask me to do if she thought the answer would not be no. Her answers pretty much split my heart wide open in their simplicity and innocence, and in the fact that they all represent things she actually wouldn’t normally be inclined to ask me, but for me they all seemed like things I would have guessed she wouldn’t hesitate to ask.

For instance, she said that she would love to walk with me at the local greenway and just talk, but she knows I am not really into being outside.

Or that perhaps she might ask me to carry down her breakfast dishes when she eats upstairs but she doesn’t because she knows my hands are always full.

She suggested that she might ask if the two of us could have a shopping day together, where we took turns trying things on in different stores and then surprised each other by secretly buying something without the other person seeing.

That was it. Those were her three ideas. The three things that she would only ever be inclined to ask if she didn’t think the answer would be no, because normally in her mind the answer would be no.

Who wouldn’t want to say yes to this girl?

Emma does not know it yet, but Saturday is going to be her yes day. And actually, it is going to be mine, too.



The Revival Of The Yes Day — 117 Comments

  1. Ooof. This hit me right in my heart. The times I say no, and the times I’m not fully there in the moment, because life is intruding in my mind and heart, distracting me.

    I love the idea of a yes day. I can already see that my daughter will ask for a lot of hairstyling time and more than one card game. And really, those are things that are very easy to say yes too, when I turn off those intrusive thoughts and give all of myself to the moment.

    Enjoy your special day!

    • I totally get it Tracie…it is so hard to turn off the life thoughts and settle in and be present. And yet, when we do it, everyone wins! I definitely need to make an effort to do it more.

  2. My husband is the “no” parent, and I am more likely to say “yes” if there isn’t a good reason to say otherwise. Since my kids are so skilled at playing independently, time with me isn’t desired, and their Yes Day requests all center around gorging on junk food and going to the store and buying all of the things.

  3. I love the things she came up with. I have a friend that tried this and she didn’t set limits. Her kids picked candy for mealtime and shopping for toys. I love that she wanted some time with you.

    • My girls would happily pick candy and toys, too…trust me! In fact, I am a little nervous to see what this year’s requests will be! 😉

  4. I love love love this post! I could relate to so much of this ~ I also feel like I am saying No all too often. I am definitely going to do a YES day with my kids. I agree with you wholeheartedly that the most important thing they want, and need, from us is our attention, and that attention is a true form of love.

    (p.s. My daughter is an Abby, and my son, if he had been a girl, would have been Emma! Great names 🙂 !!)

    • AWWW, love meeting fellow name kindred spirits! 🙂 Isn’t it amazing when we just stop and give them our attention how much happier everyone is? Glad you are going to do the yes day, too! 🙂

    • Thank you so much Stephanie…we are all guilty of it, but sometimes it is nice to be reminded! : )

  5. Aw! Now I feel guilty! I, too default to no for all the same reasons you wrote about. I am very curious to see how my daughter would answer if I asked them this question! Also, a great reminder as we start summer vacation and there will be a lot more time for yes! 🙂

    • Summer vacation is actually the best time to do it, because we all have more freedom and time! 🙂 Don’t feel guilty…but definitely try out doing one!

    • It is definitely well worth it Andrea, and I bet your sweet girl would come up with a great plan! 🙂

  6. Oh my gosh. I’m thinking about all the times I say “just a minute” or “let me just finish what I’m doing” to my kids. Now I’m wondering what they would ask for. Definitely a great reminder here. I’ll be asking my kids today!

    • Can’t wait to hear what your kids come up with when you ask them! 🙂 Hope you get a fun day out of it!

  7. I love the idea of a yes day. I have been the worst with “yes” this year. And as you note, usually, the requests are so manageable and come down to my giving just a little bit of my attention. It takes so little for kids to feel loved, when you think about it.

    • And when you think about how little it takes for them to feel loved, then your heart breaks a little for not doing more of this…or at least, mine does.

  8. You almost have me balling in front of my staff. Because you’re right… all they REALLY want is to spend time with us. Uninterrupted and devoted solely to them. Me thinks we all need to do this and report back on how it goes. Thanks for this 🙂

    • I think that is a FANTASTIC idea Kristen…I hope everyone does do it and does report back…would love to see the results from different bloggers and their kids! 🙂

  9. I love this idea and this post. The honesty on the front end is so validating – thank you! What kills me – really grates on my nerves (if I am sharing Dose of Reality style) is that truth be told … my husband gets to be the family YES guy EVERY. SINGLE. DAY – and it makes me insane … hostile… annoyed – all of the above. I spend a lot of the time playing Bad Cop and Anti-Chaos Mama (insert eye roll from hubby/kids). SO this kind of day would be a real change-it-up for us and something I know would mean a lot to my kids. I am in.

    • Oh believe me, I TOTALLY understand exactly what you are saying. Robert is definitely the fun dad…all the time…and I am the whip cracker! The best part about you doing the yes day is that changes briefly, and you kind of get to feel like the dad! 😉

  10. This is such a good idea. While I don’t think my daughter would grasp the concept very well, she does understand what “yes” means. I think I’ll follow and your footsteps and make this Saturday a “yes” day for my daughter and then Sunday will be a “yes” day for my husband. I’ll ask my daughter what she wants to do/eat and then tell her yes as long as it doesn’t include cookies and fruit snacks all day. I think I’m going to be worn out after this weekend.

  11. It does seem so easy to just say “no.”

    I know the things my boys ask to do are often very reasonable. I just need to stop and realize that I can say yes more often.

    • I feel the same way Shell. It is hard to remember that in the hustle and bustle of the day to day routine!

  12. OMG, what a cutie!

    I remember that post and thinking about it. I don’t really have yes days, but every once in a while, I will say yes to certain Dino demands. I don’t want to break his spirit with all “NOs” When I do say yes the joy on his just makes my day!

    • Isn’t it amazing how happy they get when you say yes? Especially to what for you seems like a little thing, but for them is big! 🙂

  13. I love this idea! and Emma is so cute and I would find it hard to say no that face..

    My daughter is coming down for the summer from NJ and I want to have a “yes” day with her too. Let’s see what she picks—she’s a teenager so it might not be as simple as this.

    Cringing at the thought….

    • Can’t wait to hear! Have a feeling teenage requests are more substantial than my 9 year-old’s requests! 😉

  14. Wow this one really got to me today and was just what I needed to read. Lately I have been feeling like No, not now, a in just a minute, have become my new mantra. Thanks for a great wake up call!!! And I agree, the Yes day is for them, but it’s also for us!!!! Thank you so much!!

    • You are so welcome Kathy! I am glad it resonated with you…honestly, when I re-read it I felt like I needed the reminder, too. 🙂

  15. Oh I seriously can’t wait to hear about Emma’s yes day. I think my daughter would want to go to Target and buy princess toys and probably the cookie store for a cookie! Ok, those are kinda things I love to do with her too. This did hit me in the heart. Yesterday she scratched her cornea and was so schmoopy all day she asked me if she could nap in my lap in the rocking chair. She’s almost four! Man, was it nice..

  16. Thanks for resending this. Let us know what you do on your Yes Days this year, please.
    Great Emma pic, she is the cutest ever!

  17. What a great idea. I’m excited to try this with my kids this summer. I do often find myself impulsively saying…in a minute. Curious to see what, especially my 6 year old will ask for.

  18. Oh my…this is such a wonderful idea. I am so glad you ladies brought this up because it has made me aware that I say no waaaaay more than I probably should! I agree when you say that we get so caught up in what we are doing that it’s just so easy to say no out of sometimes just being selfish! I have to plan a yes day now for Kayden!

  19. Oh Dose girls…I savored every. word. of. this post. What a fabulous concept and I am sure you touched many hearts of parents with great intentions that sometimes fall by the wayside of life’s endless distractions. This is just a wonderful reminder. Thank you. Never to late to have a yes day. Love it.

  20. Funny, I was thinking about this a little bit ago when you were complaining (sorry, commenting) about summer vacation. I’ll be interested to see your columns about what you both did.

    • It should be interesting for sure…I have a feeling Emma’s and Abby’s requests will be very different! 😉

  21. Ahhhh she is too beautiful to say no to!! I am so guilty of this. “One second baby” is all the time for me. Honestly we all have so much to do and they don’t. And the kids want to spend their free time with us. What a wonderful thing! Enjoy your yes day!

    • Thanks so much Nellie! It is hard to remember that they have nothing but free time…and want to be with us…which I know won’t always be the case!

  22. We actually have a yes day! It’s their birthday, and it happens every year without fail. We only started calling it yes day a few years back because of our reading of the eponymous book. It’s really, really special.

  23. Love this! I vow, if I ever have a child, I will let them have a Yes Day. I know that as adults, we have a million responsibilities sucking away at our time and energy. One day devoted to the child would mean the world to them.

  24. It’s your turn to make me cry! I love Emma’s ideas and the whole concept of a yes day. I don’t think it’s ever to late to have o e of those.

  25. This post gave me chills. Being that “The Cat’s in the Cradle with the Silver Spoon” song keeps replaying in my head, I think I need to have some more “yes” time too… this post really resonated with me. Thanks!

  26. Wow, you guys, this REALLY resonated with me. I found myself tearing up reading about your kids asking for things and you responding with “Just a minute…” etc, because I do that all the time. “No” is my default response too, and I feel very conflicted about that.

    I am going to have to try this with my six year old, but I bet anything that her choices would all include us eating “sweet treats” all day long. For one day, so be it. Fantastic, beautiful post. I absolutely loved it.

    • Thank you so much Stephanie! You should definitely do this, even if it means sweets all day…you will be so glad you did! 🙂

  27. This is so good! I try to “embrace the chaos” with my three year old, which isn’t easy from day to day. This reaffirms and inspires staying with him rather than just being around him. Cheers!

  28. So great. And it makes you think- really kids aren’t going to ask for an extravagent item. They just want to hang out with you. We have “high’s and lows” at family dinner on Sunday’s to talk about our favorite thing of the weekend. One weekend, after having been to the beach, having all kinds of treats and exceptions to rules and “stuff”- when asked her favorite thing of the weekend she pointed to me and said, “you. being with you, mommy”.
    That’s when I decided to pour all my energy on the weekends into being with my kids. Not being on the computer or going shopping or running errands. Fine, I’ll have a dirty house, I’ll order more cleaning supplies online and I’ll play catch up on my blog all week. But to hear I am the best part of my girls weekend? Yeah, worth it.
    Now, for her birthday the past 2 years we’ve asked her what she wanted and she’s always said “a balloon”. And we’ve never gotten her a balllon. What the F? She is getting the biggest, girlies bday balloon I can find her this birthday!

    • AWWW, this comment totally made me cry! It is so beautiful! And definitely get her the balloon…she will be beyond thrilled! 🙂

  29. Ugh… got me good here Ashley. Thanks for the convicting inspiration to say yes and pay more attention to my growing and innocent needs of my children. Beautifully said…

  30. Great idea! I FEEL like I tell my son “no” all the time although my husband says I say “yes” way too much. My son would probably ask me to take him to the movies to see the newest superhero film or watch one of his favorite movies on TV. Emma is adorable.

    • Ha ha ha Kimberly…I feel like my hubby says yes way too much! 😉 He would probably say the same about me! Definitely think about doing a yes day! 🙂

  31. Awesome post gals! I love the idea of a “yes” day for each of them individually! A couple of summers ago we went away for a week’s vacation and my mantra that week was “say yes more often”. It actually was great – because you are right – they never asked for *huge* things – it was usually “can we swim 10 min longer, can we stay up 15 min more, can you come and build this sandcastle with us”. Saying “no” often takes a lot of energy.We need to reserve saying “no” for danger – not messes or inconveniences. Happy Yes days!

    • I definitely like the idea of being more of a yes person on vacation…that is just fun for everyone! 🙂

  32. Your daughter really is adorable, I would have a hard time saying no to this one. Every moment you spend with your children is an important memory you are giving them—some that will last a lifetime, so say YES as often as you can!

  33. I guess it makes me feel good that I’m “not the only one” who feels this way or is constantly putting my kids off b/c I just really don’t want to do what they’re doing. However, it also makes me feel awful b/c all they do truly want is time and attention. My husband and I have the added pressure/stress/issue of having twins so we already struggle with trying to just get one-on-one time with each of them and, believe me, it’s hard to come by. But, like a lot of things on your site, I’ve been inspired and I will make it a priority to just get it done and maybe have a YES day times TWO!

    • TWINS??!! Oh man, Allie, you are my hero! I can definitely see how that would make the time one-on-one so much harder! But, I promise if you do the Yes days, you will be so happy…and no pressure…I say space them out! 😉

  34. Oh what a brilliant idea this is. Thank you for sharing this.
    Her ideas are so wonderful, so simple and so full of joy 🙂 The beauty of being a child isn’t?
    Will give this a try too with my son soon.

    • He would love it! It is amazing how simple the requests were…and made me realize that the gift of time is so valuable.

  35. What a sweet idea! Though, our toddler is a master manipulator already at the age of three. I can already see her reminding me that it’s “yes day” and I HAVE to say yes. (Has anybody ever successfully explained “within reason” to a three year old?)

    • Honestly, and you didn’t hear this from me, but I think 3 is too young for a yes day…I feel like every day is a yes day for a 3 year-old! 😉

  36. I need to remember this post for a few years down the line (though I think it can be applied to spouses as well, I know I do the “in a minute” thing to Sam, and it ends up turning into way more than a minute!)

    • I totally do it to Robert, too, but I don’t count him as needing my time quite as much! 😉 But I do really think you should do it with Sam…especially before the baby!

  37. This totally almost made me cry.

    I love this! What a great idea! I can’t wait to read about your day (assuming you let us hear about it)! How fun! I love her idea of going shopping together and surprising each other with stuff! What a sweet girl.

  38. I want a little piece of Emma in my kids. I am going to try this but I KNOW the answers won’t be as sweet as Emma’s. All three of mine will ask for a sleepover. I just know it. Tell Emma, she split my heart wide open as well. I could never say no to that adorable little face.

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