Inspired by Jennifer Garner, I Tried a “Yes Day” with My Kids. Here’s What Happened.
Surely—based on zero firsthand knowledge—we can all agree that Jennifer Garner is #parentinggoals. So when I read about her tale of against-all-odds survival, aka spending a Yes Day with her three kids, I was intrigued. Then, when I learned that this experience—a full day in which you say yes to anything your kids desire—was inspired by a book by beloved author Amy Krouse Rosenthal, I was obsessed (especially because this is what most days look like in my house).
But would turning my two kids’ (a boy, 6, and a girl, 3) Yes Day fantasies into reality leave me on the floor, begging for a dose of whatever that dentist gave Garner? Weirdly, not so much: Though they ate their body weight in sugar and logged an epic five hours of screen time (not proud), I stressed less.
Read the blow by blow, below.
First I set some ground rules:
According to my research, when attempting a Yes Day, I would need to set some limits to preserve safety (theirs) and sanity (mine).
My rules were fourfold:
1. At least one healthy item must be consumed at every meal (which lead my son to suggest dishes like “Lollipops and cantaloupe”).
2. We will stick to my daughter’s nap schedule and stay within the ballpark of bedtime (because I refuse to be traumatized, Hollywood influencers be damned).
3. We will respect other people and their property (see: the baseball bat still stuck in my neighbor’s tree).
4. No to anything dangerous.
Sunday morning, 6:02 a.m. Yes Day dawns.
I awaken to find my son already seated politely at the breakfast table with a pint of vanilla Häagen-Dazs and a salad-serving spoon, both of which he’d ferreted out himself, and neither of which I take away from him. I do, however, convince him and his sister to let me spread the ice cream on top of organic multigrain waffles like butter.
FYI: One tablespoon of vanilla ice cream has roughly 2 grams of sugar. The Nutella I would have willingly served on a typical day? Ten and a half grams. Yes Day FTW.
My daughter chooses to wear a tank dress and shorts, plus ballet slippers strapped to her calves. When one strap thankfully snaps, she opts for fleece-lined sparkly blue My Little Pony snow boots with rainbow pom-pom tassels. It is 80 degrees outside. I lean in to the Yes.
Out comes the iPad. While my son watches four consecutive episodes of Lego Ninjago, I let my daughter play with my makeup (typically a hard no). Turns out she loves Nars Orgasm as much as I do. She then expertly applies the grays from my Dior five-shadow palette to her forehead with a Q-tip. I have a new understanding of what it must feel like to parent North West.
Their grandparents arrive with armloads of new books instead of toys, allowing me to sidestep one of my hardest-to-swallow Yes Day expectations—the unlimited toy deluge.*
A trip to the grocery store does not yield the usual demands to purchase live lobsters as pets and Fruit Loops, because my kids spend the duration of the outing at the pharmacy next door buying toys with their grandparents. My son emerges with a crossbow that shoots marshmallows; my daughter with a case of Melissa & Doug pretend money. Interpret that as you will.
As Yes Day has now unleashed a tsunami of my pent-up attachment-parenting tendencies, I say yes when my daughter asks me to climb into her crib while putting her down for her nap. I lie there, curled up with my head squished against the wooden bars, while she falls asleep holding my finger. Once she’s snoring, I catapult myself out like a silent Simone Biles.
My son’s lunch is a bubblegum lollipop (zero cantaloupe). Later, while he watches Captain Underpants, I hand-feed him grapes and cheese like a servant in ancient Rome.
After spending an hour bouncing on our neighbor’s trampoline, it’s back to the house for a screening of The Boss Baby. Why did I not think to put a limit on Yes Day screen time?
4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.
We have friends (a family that includes two kids) over for dinner, and I do almost nothing to curb the chaos or manage the kids’ interactions. Only when someone is being excluded to the point of tears or physically endangered do I step in—momentarily. Has being a Yes Mom liberated me from my habit of helicoptering? I’m going with maybe!
Dinner for my son: One chicken nugget, an adult-size portion of chocolate cake plus a second hunk of my leftover cake that I allow him to eat hands-free off the plate, like a dog.
Dinner for my daughter: Several string beans dipped in Parmesan cheese, cake and “cookie soup” (meaning she dips cookies in her water and then drinks it). Minus the lack of utensils, a pretty standard meal.
Bedtime is a full 90 minutes later than usual, but considering I was not forced to sleep in a backyard tent like Garner, I count my blessings. As my son falls asleep he says, “I wish Yes Day could be more than just once a year.”