“The best day”

I came home Sunday evening feeling pretty good. I had just finished my 4th swim class, and I was finally making some progress on my breathing after a week of frustrating practices. In fact, I was feeling more than just pretty good; I was on a high.

“Was it the best day, Mommy?” Fred asked me after I gave Max a recap of my lesson.

“It wasn’t the best day,” I responded, “but it was a good day.”

“Well, it was the best day for me.”

I smiled at Fred’s innocence and the fact that this was the second time in three weeks that he’d had a “best” day. Both days were soccer days, when he overcame the initial nerves to really get in there with the ball and the other kids.

But it made me think. How funny that the same day for the two of us was looked at and labeled so differently. It was the “best” day for Fred and a tempered “good” day for me. What constituted star rating days in my book anyway? If I were to look back, I’d probably list up superficially some no-brainers, like the day I got married, or the day I gave birth. I also remember the day I won this special award at my high school graduation. Surely there were other happy days in between all those years, but those are the ones that stick out. But were they that happy, or more marks of achievement?

You’ll agree that one of the most touching things about being a parent is being able to see life through your children’s eyes. And happiness seems to come so easily to Fred. Like being able to play hide-and-seek with both Mommy and Daddy. Being allowed a sip of carbonated soda. Getting his first piece of junk mail addressed to him. Wearing a Halloween costume, even if it’s the same one for the second Halloween in a row. Knowing that snow is in the forecast. Seeing a cardinal land on our porch railing.

Me? I make happiness jump through hoops. Happiness for me has to be grand (again: award, wedding, childbirth). It has to be flawless with no bumps. Often, it has strings attached, so even if I am having a good day, I may not necessarily trust it enough to welcome it into my psyche. If I dare embrace happiness fully and without question, maybe I will pay for it in some other way. 

It wasn’t until much later that night, after Fred had fallen asleep and I was slicing some cheese to go with some crackers and wine that I thought, hey, today was kind of perfect…

I had had a breakthrough conversation with my mother earlier that morning. She’s been worried about my brother, and taking my own lessons with Fred and “stereo parenting,” I told her to relax. She said, “You’re right” and added, “You know, it’s so hard to be a mother. I’ve struggled since you two were babies to know what is the right thing to do.” For once, we talked not necessarily as mother and daughter, but as mother and mother…like friends.

Fred was an ace on the soccer field. After several up and down weeks, that day we saw his confident, fighting (in a good way) spirit and enthusiasm come back. On the field he was smiling, running, pumping his fist and all around having a good time and feeling good about himself.

Fred also, for the first time, dared to let go of my arms in the pool, and stretched out with his face under the water, blowing bubbles. We counted, 1-2-3-4-5 as he stayed afloat and when he came up for air and realized what he had done, his eyes widened as much as his smile did.

Then, in my own swim class, as half the class didn’t show up, the instructor had time to come around and watch us more closely. She corrected me on some of my mistakes and gave me several exercises to work on my breathing. The exercises worked, and I began to feel that I was making some progress.

And the sun shone today. Dinner was delicious. Max was always close by cheering for and guiding us in our small victories. We were together. And we are all healthy. Healthy enough to have the privilege of kicking a ball or learning to swim. 

As I was preparing the wine and cheese and cracker plate, something I had previously denied ourselves because of its extravagance, I realized I just felt different this time. I was at peace and managed not to think, “What if someone takes this moment away from me?” I guess you could say that I was happy…Fred was right. It really was the best day.

16 thoughts on ““The best day”

  1. Wow, this is a beautiful post. It really made me think about what qualifies in my mind as a “best day.”

    And this line? “Getting his first piece of junk mail addressed to him.” That made me laugh, because it’s so true. I still remember when that first piece of junk mail came addressed to me 🙂

    • Yes…somehow as we get older we just get more cynical?? What I wouldn’t do to have the purity of a little kid’s heart 🙂 I think that one’s of the ways my son has saved me. Thanks for stopping by, Helena!

  2. Fantastic. Awesome in the non teenage, trite sense! So much to say, but the main lesson I take from Fred on the “best” day is to let a great moment cancel out the other 23 hours and 59 minutes. Why can’t the best soccer practice make it the best day? Why can’t the best swim class (in a week) qualify the whole span as the best day? We’re party poopers about expecting the best DAY to be an outstanding 24 hour streak. A lousy commute to my child’s Sports Festival, the BEST time there, and an over-cooked dinner that night…so let that FUN part of the day cancel out the befores and afters! Thanks for the wisdom, Fred. (Six just trumped Forty-one!)

    • Yes yes – you’ve hit it on the nail, Kathryn. Even as I was writing this post I realized how high I had set the bar before I could let myself be content with this day – I had to have all these “perfect” things happen. Fred actually was miserable the first 10 minutes of soccer, and he was nervous before that. But he didn’t remember any of it. Kids are amazing, absolutely amazing. Like I said to Helena above, in some ways my little guy’s saved me time and again. And he’s taught me sooo much.

  3. I’m exactly the same way, Cecilia. I love how you phrase it too, about how happiness needs to “jump through hoops.” Then every once in awhile you have one of those magical moments as you just did where you realize it doesn’t have to be so hard. Thanks for this post.

    Delia Lloyd

    • Thank you Delia. It’s one of the rotten things about getting older, until you have kids I guess, and then they remind you how simple things should be 🙂

  4. I’m with Delia, making “happiness jump through hoops.” Why do things have to be perfect, right?

    I could tell you a long story here, but I won’t.

    Yes, a perfect is all perspective.


    • I’d love to hear your long story, Alexandra! Happiness should be a simple feeling, and it doesn’t need to be perfect or a result of any kind of achievement. I’m learning…

  5. You deserve happiness everyday. Why is that fact so hard to accept? (It is for me, so I’m assuming it is for you too.)

    Here’s to embracing the simple moments of happiness.

    I wonder if the key is to be more aware, to live in each moment more fully?

    • Yes, I think that really paying attention to what’s going on helps…for about a week I tried this exercise where I listed up all the things that made me happy that, and they were just simple things. It made a difference. Now, if only I could do that for longer than a week…

  6. Lovely post Cecilia. I will say that my happiest moments and days are not associated with the “great” events and achievements but with magical days be it on vacation, or with friends enjoying down time or those times I found myself doing something totally extraordinary. But still, now my life is that of a Mother I don’t think I do stop to consider that a day has been a “best day” and need to do so more often.

    • Thank you, Jane. Actually, I really see your appreciation of the “magic” you mentioned and the simple joys of life in your blog. I think that’s one of the reasons I enjoy reading your posts! They’re a regular reminder to notice the “special” in the day to day.

  7. I really enjoyed reading this post! In watching my daughter become so happy in holding a child sized hanger the other day, I thought about myself and my own self-made loops, obstacles, and barriers to “happiness.”

    In thinking about it more, for so long, I have defined happiness as something that would happen once x-y-z (and all of x-y-z) happened. As a result of this, and without knowing it, I, over time, had learned (or taught myself) to view happiness as an elusive experience, not a moment or moments.

    I am learning, however, and as modeled by my daughter’s ease of happiness, to embrace my happy moments as my happiness.

    Thanks for reminding me of the importance of this endeavor.


  8. Oooooh, a sip of carbonated soda … That definitely constitutes a best day for my kiddos! I try to see my own small moments, the tiny victories that make me smile, as happiness, as a reason for joy. It’s so hard when it seems like we continually raise the bar for what “should” make us happy.

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