I was so glad my daughters wanted to join me on my weekend trip to Tennessee for a ladies day at the Henderson Church of Christ. Some of the teenagers provided childcare during the event, and one of the ladies of the congregation offered to take the girls downstairs before we began. When Kira returned, she told me about a sweet conversation she shared with 5-year-old Mary Ashley.
"Do you like going to ladies days with your mommy?" Kira asked as they descended the stairs.
"I like doing everything with my mommy!" came Mary Ashley's enthusiastic reply. "I like to sleep with her. I like to go to ladies days with her. I like to be with her all the time!"
I was so touched to hear what my sweet girl said when I wasn't nearby, and I thanked her later that day for her kind words. What she said next surprised me, and her words have stuck with me since we returned home.
"Mommy," Mary Ashley began, "do you know what my very favorite thing in the whole, whole wide world is?"
Intrigued by her question, I considered the possibilities briefly before realizing I honestly didn't know. "No, Sweetheart, what would that be?"
"Playing the girl games and having story time with you," she revealed.
A swirl of emotions filled my heart when I heard this. First of all, I was honored to learn that many of Mary Ashley's happiest moments are spent in my company. And I was immediately struck by the simplicity of her expectations. Her greatest joys do not require elaborate planning or great sacrifices on my part; in fact, snuggling up to read Fancy Nancy or pausing to play The Princess Match Game actually allows me to slow down and relax too.
But realizing how much she treasures our quiet moments together, I felt humbled knowing how often I allow the demands of school, housekeeping and extra-curricular activities to crowd out simple family rituals. Too often I tuck the children into bed -- wondering how the evening got away from us again -- turning down requests to read a story or play a game as I turn down their covers, offering weakly, "I'm sorry that it has gotten so late tonight, but I hope tomorrow we will have time."
But now that I know how easily I can incorporate Mary Ashley's favorite things into our day, I feel a serious shift in priorities and planning taking place.
Still pondering Mary Ashley's confession to me, I asked my other children last night what makes them feel most joyful.
Three-year-old Emma called out, "Swimming in our pool!"
Seven-year-old Christian said, "Hearing something funny that makes me laugh."
And 10-year-old Carson said, "Being successful at something really difficult, like making a good grade on a test that was really hard or playing basketball and making a basket just before the buzzer sounds."
Immediately my wheels started turning, and I'm already looking forward to sitting poolside next summer, reading a funny book to Christian and Mary Ashley while I watch Emma swim, calling out challenges to Carson as he attempts perilous feats off the diving board.
In all sincerity, I am so thankful for my conversation with Mary Ashley because she reminded me that the greatest joys are often found in life's littlest moments. And I'm hoping that in being a student of what makes my loved ones happiest, I can give them love gifts each day tailored to fit their unique needs and tastes. And in sharing these special moments with my children, I hope to show them every day that my favorite thing in the whole, whole wide world is spending time with them.
"The happiest moments of my life have been the few which I have passed at home in the bosom of my family." -- Thomas Jefferson
(I am linking this post to Tuesdays Unwrapped at Chatting at the Sky. Click here to discover more gifts of everyday joy.)