(4-minute read) The seed was planted well before I had kids. Even before I got married. I vividly remember sitting and watching “One Fine Day,” the romcom movie with heartthrob George Clooney and Michelle Pfeiffer, and paying attention to the fact that each night they asked their children what their high and low of the day were. For some reason this ritual spoke to me, and I decided at that very moment that I was going to do the same when I one day had children. When my daughter Frankie started nursery school, that day came and the tradition began. Every night at dinner, we each shared our highs and lows of the day.
Usually my highs and lows revolved around her (typical Mom answer, I know). When Frankie did something new, it was my high. When she got hurt physically or emotionally, it was my low. One of the best parts about doing this was the brief and trivial conversations that sharing something so simple sparked. They were sweet and enjoyable. Over time, however, they evolved into more profound ideas.
On the day Frankie graduated from preschool, I shared that my high and low were the same. I asked her if she thought that was possible. She looked at me perplexed. I explained that I was happy she was getting bigger and going to start the next chapter of her life in kindergarten, but at the same time I was also sad that my baby was growing up. Although it was a hard concept, I believe she had some level of understanding that we can sometimes have two very different (and even opposite) emotions about the same thing.
By the time my younger daughter Ruby was old enough to participate, our highs and lows were no longer just about Frankie. Naturally, they now included Ruby. Frankie began to take notice of small achievements – not just hers, but her sisters as well. This enabled Frankie to learn that life wasn’t all about her. As you can imagine, neither of them liked when our high was about their sister (and not them). It often made them sad and/or angry. As a parent, my instinct was to try to make them feel better and explain how they also did wonderful things. But when I stopped to think about it, I realized this was an important teaching moment and explained to the girls that, it’s not just okay, it’s actually healthy to express your emotions, regardless of what they are. There are no “wrong” feelings and shouldn’t tell anyone how to feel. We need to be respectful.
This was sometimes a challenge, especially when one of their lows was about interactions they had as siblings. When my daughters didn’t like or agree with what their sister shared, they had some not-so-nice things to say in response. This prompted the implementation of one of the oldest golden rules:
“If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing.”
As my daughters grew, I recognized that this routine could now also be a valuable tool to spark relevant dialogue, and the ability to share my own life experiences. So I began to veer away from focusing all of my highs and lows around them. It was important for my girls to understand that I had a life outside of them, that life wasn’t always easy, and that even parents have bad days.
One night, my low was that someone at work told a lie about me. My girls were shocked and eager to learn more. They asked questions about how I responded (I told the truth) and what I planned to do now (nothing differently). That night, we adopted Michelle Obama’s golden rule: “When people go low, we go high.”
Over time the dialogue continued to become more personal. At this point, Frankie expressed that she was no longer comfortable speaking in front of the family. I respected this request and as a result, we began sharing our highs and lows individually.
This simple change allowed me to find out more about what was going on at school, and challenges my daughters were facing. I’d hear about girl drama, feeling excluded, and specific issues that arose at lunch or recess. I began to occasionally use my high and low as an opportunity to drive home points I thought were relevant to what my girls were going through, and to pre-empt issues I could foresee arising in the future. I shared my personal experiences as they related to friends. One night my low was that I saw on Facebook pictures of my friends out together, and I wasn’t invited. It hurt. But…By sharing my personal experiences, it helped my girls feel better to know that others think and feel the same way. They are not alone.
As time passed, it became more difficult for my older daughter to sit face-to-face with me and share such personal things. So I decided once again to adapt the ritual to the needs of my daughters, and began turning off the lights and talking before bed. This new way of sharing allowed my daughters to dig deeper, sharing their innermost feelings. There were many nights where they had several lows and struggled to find a high. It was at this point that the true value of our routine was realized. Even on the days when nothing seemed to go right, something good could always be found. Sometimes it required looking at things from a different perspective.
This led to me adding more questions about the day’s events. We each shared something nice we did for someone else and something nice someone did for us. I loved these because at the end of the day, it allowed both girls to search for the good in people and to see the good in themselves. This one simple daily reflection helped to build them up. It also enabled them to recognize that…even strangers or people that do not play an integral part in your life can be affected by the small stuff.
I enjoyed it so much that I decided to push my luck and add one more question. Our last, but important, addition to this routine meant we each had to share something for which we are grateful. I had been practicing gratitude myself and saw some pretty significant changes in my attitude and gut reaction to things. And I wanted them to have the same ability…to appreciate all that was good around them, even life’s smallest blessings.
I made a small but challenging request: that what they are grateful for could not be a material thing. Last year, my youngest daughter shared that she was grateful for slime (gooey mess that was all the rage with kids). When I reminded her of the rule, she explained that making slime was her way to release stress, that it made her feel good about herself because she knew she was good at it. She reminded me that things aren’t always what they appear to be. We should try to push our own preconceived notions aside and look at things through our children’s eyes. They have a lot to teach us.
And the learning continued. One night I told Ruby my low was that I had to cancel one of my GAALS camps because I didn’t have enough girls signed up. When it was her turn, she said her high was my success with GAALS. She continued, saying, “Mommy, you can’t give up. Think about how many girls you’ve helped.” At that moment, my heart swelled. Even though we may not recognize it, we should take comfort knowing that the lessons we teach our children actually do have a positive impact. To some extent they will become what we are, so we need to be what we want them to be.Share: