A few years back, my husband, and I, and our two sons went on holiday with an Anglican minister, Michael Duff, and his family. Michael’s father-in-law happened to be the Bishop of Durham, so we got to stay in Durham Castle and play croquet in the “back yard.” It was all very grand, but only incidental to the story.
Rewind ten years. We met Michael and Rachel under very different circumstances—trekking in Nepal. We were all walking toward the same mountain temple at the head of Langtang Valley. Each day we would run into each other at teahouses and villages where we spent the night. At the time, Michael worked in computer programming. Rachel did social work. We enjoyed each other’s company and stayed in touch. They didn’t have kids yet, nor did we.
Later Michael became a minister. Rachel worked as a nurse. They visited us in Hawaii with their two young children, and invited us to England. We finally accepted when our boys were 2 and 5. When we stayed in the castle, the thing that impressed me most was not the size of our bathtub or the beauty of the old building. Instead, I latched onto this little ritual Michael and Rachel had with their children.
At dinner, everyone was asked to share their “best bit” and “worst bit” of the day. As a new parent trying to figure out how to raise children, this got my attention. Best bits and worst bits made for lively conversation. It promoted gratitude because it required everyone to think about all the good things that had happened that day. But it didn’t minimize the painful parts. Those got equal attention.
I adopted this ritual at home for years, usually at bedtime. Eventually my boys rebelled by giving me silly answers every time I asked. Nowadays, I use it more sparingly, as a chance to reflect on an experience. For example, what was the best bit and worst bit of your cross-country meet? It gives me a window into my boys’ lives.
I will always grateful to the Duffs for introducing me to this very simple, yet magical idea.