The Right Choice

by Rachel Macy Stafford
Originally Published: 

“Name twenty things you love about me,” my younger daughter requested just as I was shutting the door to her bedroom.

Because I immediately thought about the dirty dishes in the sink, the work I had yet to do before I could go to bed, and the ache in my back, I almost said, “Not tonight.”

But I didn’t.

Instead I slowly made my way back to her bed and rattled off things like, “I love your smile … I love the way you sing … I love how you help your friends … I love the way you make me laugh … I love the way you take your time … I love your strong hugs …”

I made it to twenty quite quickly, and I watched the smile on her face get a little bigger with each one.

“Thank you, Mama. I love how you love me,” she offered back as she rolled over preparing to sleep.

It took less than one minute, this little request of hers—but there is a good chance she will remember this list, this very important list.

I don’t always get it right. I don’t.

But over the past three and a half years on this Hands Free journey, my eyes have been opened. I can now see clearly that my days are made up of a million little choices—choices to grasp what really matters or let them slip through my multi-tasking little fingers.

That night I got it right.

I chose the girl who still stands on her tiptoes to reach the sink.

I chose the girl who still likes me to read her bedtime stories and hold her hand in the parking lot.

I chose the girl who sings made-up while offering me dandelion bouquets.

I chose the girl that has wiggly teeth and a contagious laugh.

With the kitchen in disarray and deadlines looming, I chose my child. Because I still can. Today my child stands before me wanting, needing, and hoping to be chosen. Tomorrow might be different.


Whether I grasped what really mattered or let it slip through my fingers came down to one choice—a choice took less than sixty seconds, but yet the memory may very well last a lifetime.

This powerful fact has been giving me a lot of hope lately.

Because honestly, things have been really different around here.

With the incredible response of my new book, there have been increased expectations and demands; there have been media interviews, book signings, travels … more readers, more emails, more opportunities, and more writing duties.

And honestly, it’s felt overwhelming at times. It’s felt scary at times. It’s felt very unlike the way I want to live my life at times.

And then I have the “name 20 things you love about me” experience, and I remember. It’s what I’ve been telling my readers for years—those who write to me and explain the painful circumstances of their lives:

I am going through a divorce …

I only see my children on weekends …

I lost my house and now we live in a shelter …

I am now working three jobs …

I am going through a tough time financially and emotionally …

I am not in a good place right now …

They all want to believe that despite their current life circumstances, they can still live Hands Free and grasp the moments that matter.

What I always tell them (and what I wholeheartedly believe) is that it is not about how muchtime you have with your loved ones—it’s about maximizing the time that you do have by choosing to be fully present in those moments of togetherness.


It can mean the difference between grasping what matters and letting it slip through your fingers.

But since I am a storyteller, I want to offer one last story that illustrates this notion far better than mere words …

It was the Wednesday after book release week. That is day of the week that The New York Bestseller List is announced to publishers based on a variety of factors from the previous week. Although I knew making this highly coveted list as a first-time author was highly unlikely, I couldn’t deny the flutter of hope that danced in the pit of my stomach all day.

By three o’clock I still hadn’t gotten the call, and it was time to pick up my daughters from school. Out of habit, I did what I typically do since starting my journey: I silenced all notifications on my phone to protect my family time.

My older daughter had plans with a friend and her family, so my younger daughter and I enjoyed an outing by ourselves. For three blissful hours, we went to the park, grabbed some dinner, and finally, we were getting her a dress for my first book signing.

While standing in the checkout line, I rummaged around in my bag to see what time it was on my phone. Much to my surprise, there were six text messages and four missed calls. The three letters that jumped out were NYT. I wanted to read the entire text, but instead I put the phone back in my purse. With a trembling voice, I told my daughter we must go outside and find a quiet place away from people.

My daughter could see the tears in my eyes. “What it is Mama?” she asked with concern.

Not wanting her to be scared I reassured her. “ It’s good news—it’s so, so good. But I want to read it together.”

Soon Avery and I stood huddled together on the sidewalk in front of the store. As a chilly night wind blew the hair back from our faces, I read the message from my marketing director out loud. “Congratulations, Rachel! You made the NYT Bestseller List!”

I bowed my head and cried.

“Mama, your book is one of the best books! Out of like … one-thousand books … your book is one that people really like to read!” My child’s precious interpretation of the exciting news made the moment even sweeter.

Unexpectedly, I picked up my seven-year-old girl just like I did when she was a toddler. I swirled her while reciting a prayer of gratitude. The blissful look on her face indicated she would remember this moment her whole entire life.

And that’s when it hit me. I was smack dab in the middle of creating a sacred memory that would be filed away in Avery’s mind for perhaps seventy-five years.


Whether I grasped what really mattered or let it slip through my fingers came down to one choice.

The conscientious, Type-A part of me thought about calling back the members of my publishing team or at least calling my husband, my parents, or my sister to share the news.

But I didn’t.

Instead, I offered my hand to my daughter and we chatted throughout the drive home.

I chose the girl who still gives me love notes.

I chose the girl who still finds comfort in her mother’s kisses when she falls and hurts herself.

I chose the girl who says, “This dinner tast-es so good,” even when it’s simple chicken and broccoli spears.

I chose the girl who types stories on the computer and says, “I’m a writer too, Mama.”

With a full voicemail inbox and a desire to share my news with the world, I chose my child … because she was there waiting, wanting, delighting in being chosen. And tomorrow might be different.


Whether I grasped what really mattered or let it slip through my fingers came down to one choice.

A few hours later, I finally called my literary agent. She said, “We were worried! No one could get a hold of you.”

“I was with Avery. Being Hands Free,” I explained nearly crying as the words left my lips.

I don’t always get it right. I don’t.

And sometimes life circumstances make it even harder.

But that night I made the right choice.

And that gives me hope.

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