Watching ‘Yes Day’ With My Kids Was The Reminder We All Needed

by Amber Leventry
Netflix/Yes Day

My kids have been asking for a “Yes Day” for a couple of years. This is when you say yes to everything—within reason—your kid asks for within a 24 hour time period; I put them off by asking what they would want to do. What is your dream day? I ask. Their response: they want to be able to do screens whenever they want.

First of all, not-at-all-electronically-deprived children, we could totally make that happen and there have been plenty of days where more hours than not were spent playing video games or watching movies, so relax. Second of all, a true “Yes Day” is more involved—which is in part why I have been putting it off.

If we are to have a true day of me or my ex saying yes all day then they need to come up with ideas for what they would want to do or where they want to go. I also said we would need to establish some rules around the day but that’s as far as any of us went with an actual plan. After watching the new Netflix movie “Yes Day” with Jennifer Garner, the idea has surfaced again and this time I’m determined to actually make a plan and put our “Yes Day” on the calendar.

“Yes Day” is based on the book of the same name by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, and before Jennifer Garner starred in the movie she used the book as inspiration to give her kids a “Yes Day” once a year. Her need for joy pushed her to turn the book — and her own family tradition — into the movie. Garner tells Scary Mommy, “I pitched it, produced it, found the writer. I wanted to do this and chose to work. I need joy as a person. And I need joy coming at me. I need to put it out there. I felt like this was a chance to do it. And I think we did.” My kids and I definitely found joy while watching the movie, but we also found reminders and appreciation for each other that are easy to lose during everyday moments—especially during the middle of a pandemic.

The movie starts with showing the contrast of life without kids vs. with. It’s a lot easier to say yes to fun activities when you only have your adult self or partner to worry about. Once we have kids, we soon learn that when kids want to do “fun” stuff it often involves dangerous decision making from a brain not fully developed. And said kid fun usually wants to be had right before bed, school, or in the middle of a task where less fun and more focus is required.

It’s not that parents don’t want you to have fun, kids. It’s that we want to keep you alive and doing that is scary and exhausting so saying no to benign requests is often the knee-jerk reaction. Sorry, babes. I know you simply asked for ice cream, but I heard Can we light the porch on fire?

When we watched the movie, I saw from the kids’ point of view the number of times parents say no, not now, not today, nope on a rope. I also saw the bummed look on the kids’ faces on the screens when they expected the no. Ugh. I see that look on my own kids’ faces and I hate it. Yes, I’m busy and stressed and all of the other things, just like Garner was in the movie, but I want to be more playful with my kids before they don’t want to be playful with me. Sometimes I tell myself I have plenty of time, but my oldest is already 10 and how the fuck did that happen? My twins are almost eight and we are in a pretty sweet spot to do lots of really cool stuff. “Yes Day” was a reminder to take advantage of their big but still little-ness.

An unexpected and pleasantly refreshing angle of “Yes Day” showed why parents are the way they are by deliberately pointing out the dynamics that often plays out in families. One parent is usually the fun, carefree one (stereotypically the fun dad who is told where to be and when and gets to be the good guy when it comes to discipline because he lets Mom do the heavy lifting) while the other parent is the organizer, on edge, and “cranky” one (usually the emotionally and physically burnt out mom who has to do the heavy lifting because Dad doesn’t step up or think it’s his role to do so) who has to enforce the rules and keep everyone on schedule all of the time. My kids noticed this narrative as it played out in the movie.

At first they thought that I and my ex should be more like “fun Dad.” Of the two of us my ex is usually the one who is looser with rules and regulations but thankfully I’m not dragging her half of the responsibilities too. We parent differently in some cases but neither lets the other one carry the whole burden.

Because the movie lifts the parenting curtain a bit for the kids in the movie, my kids were able to sneak a peek into what goes into my thought process at times. They saw themselves in the stubborn, loud, and messy chaos of kid life and slowly started to appreciate the position they put me in at times—not enough to make drastic changes but enough to understand why I don’t say “yes” as often as I would like.

I acknowledged I understood where they were coming from too. I told them I want to say “yes” more and will work on it because I want to bring more fun, kid-driven plans into my day. Being a parent is amazing and there’s nothing wrong with saying yes to ice cream for dinner once in a while. And we had a bigger conversation too about making intentional plans for a “Yes Day” once COVID is less of a threat.

We all agreed that saying “no” so much because of the pandemic has been a drag but we can all wait a few more months to really take advantage of a well-planned day of “yes.”