Last night, the girls had a playdate with a friend named Ashley.  The weather was perfect.  One of those rare days in Michigan that makes living through the gray, wet, cold snow seem worthwhile.  The kind of evening that beckons you outdoors, as if there’s no choice in the matter.  Craig even came home early to celebrate the sunshine, which rarely happens.

The girls went inside just long enough to put on their bathing suits.  Then they flew out the screened door to find the hose.  They giggled with delight as they chased and sprayed each other with the cold stream of water.  They worked together to make mud puddles, and squealed as they dove in elbows deep.  Their fun was pure and uninhibited – they were high on Vitamin D.

It made me so happy to watch them.  So happy to see them that free.  Free from coats, hats, gloves and a pre-mature dark sky.  Free from homework that still had to be done, but just couldn’t compare to the importance of their first taste of summertime fun.  Free from electronics, television or messy art projects that help to pass the time spent indoors.

I texted Ashley’s Mom to see if she could stay longer.  The kids were having too much fun to send her home, and Craig and I were content just watching them play as we grilled out on the porch.

When it was time to eat, the kids had to hose their muddy selves down before coming to the table.  Conversation flowed easily as they devoured the steak with mushroom sauce, potatoes and broccoli.  As usual, Taylor proposed that we play “Best Part/Worst Part.”  I suggested we let Ashley go first, since she was our company.  She declined shyly, so Sydney and Taylor took the lead.  After they had taken turns sharing their best parts of the day, Ashley decided she was brave enough to participate.

“My best part of the day was doing a super cool science experiment!  We put a rock and a piece of paper into some water.  The rock got wet, but the paper didn’t!” she shared her story in true 7 year-old fashion.  We got the basic gist, and chose to be satisfied without needing all the details.

The girls both smiled politely as they listened.  When she finished sharing, they asked her questions about the experiment.  They reminisced with excited familiarity when they realized they’d done the same experiment last year, as they are one grade ahead of her.

Finally, Sydney couldn’t stand it any longer.  I knew it was coming, and was surprised it hadn’t already been brought up.  “Do you have any other best parts, Ashley?” she asked in an inquisitive tone that sounded leading.

Ashley could sense the expectancy in Sydney’s voice, but couldn’t quite grasp the direction of the question.  She offered an insecure smile to Sydney and raised her brow with quiet confusion.

“Like maybe another best part would be this playdate?” Sydney probed excitedly.

“Oh yeah!” Ashley agreed whole-heartedly.  “This is my best part too!”

Sydney threw her head back and giggled.  “I knew it would be!” she stated with certainty.  “But I didn’t want to say, Hey!  What about this playdate??‘ ‘cuz my Mom would have said, ‘Sydney!  That’s rude!!!’”  As she spoke, she waved her hands in the air and rolled her eyes dramatically while gesturing at me.  Her animated prediction made us all laugh.

I was amused by the forethought of her accusation of me.  She was exactly right.  I would have told her that it was rude.  I would have reminded her that Ashley’s best part of the day didn’t have to include her.  Ashley’s best part is about  Ashley – no one else.  They’ve heard it from me a thousand times before.

It was a great moment.  Sydney’s words reassured me that it is worth my time to repeat the important lectures.  It is worth the exhausting patience and persistence it takes to teach them how to be kind and respectful.  It is worth the effort to teach them how to be good listeners who can partake in unselfish conversations.

It made me happy to realize that my hard work is paying off.  The lessons I teach my kids not only shape who they are, but also determine how they treat other people.  They are learning to trust my voice even when I don’t speak.

I’m tellin’ ya…it was a great day in Michigan.