Cait and I have a longstanding bedtime tradition. She snuggles in, I sit next to her, and we talk about the day. We always start with Best Part, Worst Part, and Don’t Tell. Best Part is for talking about the best part of our day. Likewise for Worst Part. Cait came up with the Don’t Tell some years back when she’d desperately wanted to tell me a secret. It has morphed into sharing with each other anything about our day that the other one would find surprising, or wouldn’t otherwise know about. (This category has been a godsend for helping me keep a pulse on how Cait is doing, and on what, if anything, is bothering her.) Other categories have come and gone over the years, but these three have always been the bedrock.

Also part of the tradition is that after we’re done with our categories, Cait tries to keep me engaged in conversation for as long as she can. She doesn’t want me to leave. In fact, her not-so-secret wish is to keep me long enough until I’m so tired that I fall asleep right there. On nights when I am really tired, I can find this drawn-out process exasperating. But I hang in there because I always want my daughter to want to talk to me. And, because on some nights, I am so richly rewarded for my patience that I can’t ever imagine stopping. Last night was one of those nights.

As usual, as soon as Cait feels my weight start to shift off the bed, she unloads the big guns, “Mom, Sarah and Emily (her two best friends), and I were talking–”

Okay, she’s got my attention. “Yeah,” I say casually, “about what?” I sit back down on the bed.

I’m thinking they’ve been talking about boys, or school, or another girl who has been a problem, or what they want to wear for Halloween, or the Millsbury computer game they all play–the usual 10 year old girl stuff.

Cait props herself up on her elbow. “Well, Sarah asked a question, and we all had different answers. I want to know what you would have said.”

“Okay,” I say, “Shoot. What’s the question?”

“If a tree falls in the woods and there’s no one there to hear it, does it make a sound?”

Picking my jaw back up from the floor, I ask, “So what did you girls decide?”

“Well, Emily thinks it makes a sound. And Sarah hasn’t decided.”

“What do you think?” I ask

“I think it doesn’t make any sound.” She answers.

“Yeah, why?” I ask, still not believing that my daughter and her friends are discussing such weighty matters. And that my daughter had the philosophical interest and reasoning ability to think it through to the right answer.

“Because I think there can only be sound if there are ears to hear the sound,” she says. “And since no one is around, the tree falling wouldn’t make a sound. Unless, of course, if there were animals like rabbits or deer around because they have ears and they could hear it.”

She looks at me to see what I think of that.

What do I think of that? I think, of course, that my daughter is brilliant. I think I’m very thankful for friends like Sarah and Emily. I think I’m glad I stayed to hear this part of her day. I think bedtimes will stay the Best Part of my day for a long time to come.