Why Now is the Right Time for a “Yes Day”

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Yes Day

It’s finally July, and we’re over halfway through the crazy year that has been 2020. In Wisconsin, we have re-emerged from our state’s Safer at Home order and are establishing a new normal in our communities.

The period of quarantine brought on by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic was challenging for all of us in unique ways. As a parent, I mourned the dismantling of the routine and structure my husband and I had carefully built to set each of us up for success each day.

Our house became so full of “No’s” and restrictions and attempted explanations for why we couldn’t go anywhere or see anyone. It was hardest for the first few weeks. But then my toddler seemingly surrendered to the huge wave of limitations, and life got a little easier. Thankfully, my infant didn’t know any better.

As we left quarantine behind and navigated our new reality, I wanted to kickstart our re-entry into normalcy. I wanted to leave all those “No’s” behind. I was tired of them, and so was my three-year-old. So I decided to have a Yes Day at our house.

What’s Yes Day?

The idea for Yes Day was popularized by Jennifer Garner, who got the idea from this book. Yes Day is a day to meet your child’s every request with a “Yes.” Here’s the kicker: You don’t tell your kids it’s Yes Day. You just start saying “Yes.”

Some families make Yes Day an annual tradition, and their children catch on as they are met with a string of Yesses to their early morning requests. But this was the first time we tried it in our house, and I was not going to tell a toddler that she could ask for anything her heart desired. That seemed downright dangerous.

Our Yes Day Begins

Our Yes Day started with letting my three-year-old sleep in until 9. I’d like to say it was for her own benefit. But I’ll be honest and admit that I was pretty scared of my first Yes Day and didn’t feel compelled to get the party started any earlier than necessary.

When she did get up, the cartoons were immediately turned on at her request, and the stream of food began. (I couldn’t believe how much of our Yes Day centered on food!) She had two packs of fruit snacks in her within the first 15 minutes of being awake. At 9:45, she requested GoGurt, which we did not have. So out the door we went, in search of yogurt in a tube. By 10:30, we were in the drive-thru line at McDonald’s for a Happy Meal. I think by this point she could tell something was up, because while we were waiting to order she told me “Mommy I really love you!” with a huge smile on her face.

All those yesses were making her heart happy.

Next, she asked if she could unbox her Happy Meal herself — a big deal for a toddler. She giggled with glee when I handed her the box. “Maybe Yes Day is about her feeling independent and making her own choices,” I thought to myself. She had left the house in her pajamas, barefoot, with a blanket tied across her shoulders like a superhero. Not because I didn’t ask her to get dressed, but because she stated she didn’t need shoes today and asked if she could stay in her pajamas. “Yes.”

Afternoon Laughs and Insights

We returned home from our food adventure to an invite from our neighbors for her to play outside. She changed into her swimsuit and several hours of outdoor play ensued. This involved several costume changes into various princess dresses and secondhand dance costumes, and I was much more patient than usual. I was starting to see how happy the lack of resistance was making her. And these requests were small; it wasn’t requiring that much extra of me.

My favorite request of the day came later in the afternoon when she asked me to ride on the back of her Barbie Power Wheels with her while she drove down the block. We live on a busy street, and I am quite certain we sparked some laughter by passers-by as the four-wheeler crawled down the sidewalk under the weight of us both.

yes day, toddler on 4 wheeler

Next, we watered our flowers and instead of over-directing her, I let her do what she wanted with the watering can. It turns out she wanted to water the landscaping rocks, because “the rocks gotta grow so I gotta plant ‘em.” Umm, sure! By the end, there was water everywhere along the side of our house, and she had soaked and changed out of several dresses. But the consequences were minimal and she was so happy to be in control.

Yes, There Was One Big “No”

I did have to say “No” when she asked to go for a ride in the car while her sister was inside the house napping. She asked if we could sit in the car anyway. It was 90 degrees out, but I couldn’t follow up one “No” with another, so I turned on the car, blasted the A/C, and allowed her to dole out (way too much) hand sanitizer to us both.

In case you’re wondering, yes, the 10-month-old did get in on the Yes Day action. During a diaper change, she grabbed for a box of tissues and proceeded to pull out every one and destroy the entire box. She would have preferred a pack of wipes, but we’re not far enough removed from the panic buying spurred by COVID-19 for me to allow that.

Goodnight, Yes Day

By the time my husband got home shortly after 7 p.m., I was exhausted and ready to put Yes Day to bed, but I will carry the lessons I learned into the rest of the summer and beyond. I realized that saying “Yes” is often easier and less demanding than I thought it would be. After some reflection, I’ve recognized that I often say “No” out of laziness or honestly for no good reason at all. Allowing my daughter to take the reins on her day was messy at times, but we solved problems—like soaked princess dresses—together and had fun along the way. And isn’t that what raising tiny humans is all about? I say, YES.