My Daughter Taught Me It's Better to Live Out Loud

16 days ago
Thanasis Zovoilis/Getty

When I put my daughter, Zoey, to sleep at night, the one thing she always asks is for me to tell her the story of my day. For years, I’ve happily obliged to this request.

She started asking about my day she was only 3, an age where silliness was always a crowd-pleaser. In an effort to make my job seem just a tad bit more entertaining, I created a pretend group of silly animals that would hop in my purse and tag along with me into work. I’d tell her stories of the trouble they’d get into while I was busy with projects or meetings. Lulu the Mouse was frequently found in random places throughout the office, Chunk the Chipmunk would always be found eating something, Sky the Skunk would be found somewhere stinking up the place, and Honey the Bunny would live up to her name and behave while the rest of her friends caused a ruckus. “I mean, honestly, Zoey, by the time I found Chunk he had so many Peanut M&M’s stuffed into his cheeks he couldn’t even talk,” I’d tell her as she would collapse into a fit of giggles, my level of silliness obviously meeting her approval. Years later, she still asks me what kind of trouble Lulu gets into and if Chunk’s favorite M&M color is still red.

Now that she’s in kindergarten, I often wonder how she managed to get so big, so fast. There are days that I will come across something of hers that invokes this nostalgia of her as an infant. A baby blanket or a stuffed animal will transport me back to her nursery, rocking her to sleep as I breathed in her sweet scent, and holding her in a way that I am unable to now. As bittersweet as those memories are, they make me so incredibly happy, because they are part of who she was and, more importantly, who she is becoming, which is someone I absolutely adore.

Most recently, she has become a child who not only wants to hear about my day but tell me about hers, too. So although our nightly ritual has changed, I love what it has turned into: A back and forth conversation about the good things and the not-so-good things, celebrating the good things and talking about what we can do to make the not-so-good things better. I do this now because I always want to know what’s going on in her life, and I want her to know that I’m always here to listen to her, no matter what.

Zoey laughs—yes, that’s right, laughs—in her sleep, so it comes as no surprise to me that she never really has any not-so-good things that happen during her day. Her stories are always silly (I mean, she did learn from the best) and fun and positive and simple (as in the “My pencil today wasn’t just yellow, it was RAINBOW-colored and not only was it sharpened, it had an ERASER” type). I know at some point these stories will change, so for now I relish them. If you ever want to be entertained or just need a good laugh, ask a five-year-old to tell you about their day.

But the story she told me the other night? Well, let’s just say it wasn’t about her pencil. It was a million times better than that, and let’s be honest: freshly sharpened rainbow-colored pencils are pretty darn amazing, so this story was one of the best, if not THE best.

It went like this:

“Okay, so let me tell you the silliest thing about today,” she says, her hands moving and her eyes scrunching up because her smile is so big.

“I can’t wait to hear it,” I tell her, my smile matching hers.

She starts giggling, slapping her palm against her forehead as she shakes her head. “I mean, it’s just so silly, but I was in gym class today and in the middle of playing our game, out of nowhere, Can’t Stop the Feeling pops into my head. And you KNOW how much I love that song.”

“Of course,” I say as I nod emphatically. “Besides, who doesn’t love that song? It’s the best.”

Zoey’s eyes light up. “Right?!” she agrees. “Anyways, it was in my head, and then all of a sudden I couldn’t keep it in there anymore so I just start singing it. Out loud. Right there, right in the middle of gym. And it felt SO good to get it out of my head and everyone looked at me like I was crazy but I was so happy and I didn’t care, so you know what I did, Mommy?”

“Tell me.”

She jumps off the bed and poses, pausing dramatically for effect.

“I just kept singing.”

And, as if on cue, her little legs start moving as she breaks out in song, “I got that sunshine in my pocket, Got that good soul in my feet…” Her hand reaches out to me, and of course, I take it and join her in celebration of the best. story. ever.

Like I said, I love who she’s becoming. I love everything she is, and I especially love the fact that today, she just kept singing. It’s what I want for her today, tomorrow, and always.

But as we performed our little song and dance party, I couldn’t help but wonder: when is it that we stop singing? Why do we lose our songs? If I want Zoey to keep singing, shouldn’t I do the same?

Just keep singing.

So I’ve decided that’s what I’m going to do. I’ve also decided I’m going to keep remembering. Remembering what it’s like to be a kid again, where everything is amazing and fun and wonderful and exciting and new and just so. darn. cool. and where sometimes, you just don’t care what other people think. Where you want to tell stories about your day because you did something that actually was story-worthy.

I want to remember these things because I think they will help bring more color and light to my days, and in the process, allow me to better help Zoey create the brilliant masterpiece that her life is becoming. I might not be able to do much, but I can certainly do that, and while I might not do it right, I’ll at least be an active, engaged, and happier participant in the process.

Justin Timberlake was right. It is something magical.

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