I’ve had an enormously stressful week or so. Seriously maxed out in a way I haven’t been in some time — smooooshed if you will. The reason I mention my stress is that I’ve found in the past, like this week, these stressful episodes are often peppered with moments of mindfulness that penetrate into my life and stick. Little reminders of what matters most — they seem to bubble up inconveniently, often during these times, and then form exceptional meaning going forward. I’m certain you know what I mean—I think perhaps its the context or the heightened sense of acuity when trying to balance work and family during stress that brings us to our knees while also serving up reminders to consume life’s essence.

Thankfully there are buoys around us that get us through these stressful episodes. A joke our child makes while running by, a story on the radio that allows us to pause, the simple beauty of a red tree passing into sight on the side of the road. Sometimes when we’re most amped and stressed our lenses on life de-fog in a way where the beauty is just crystal clear.

What I’m talking about is my sudden sense of realizing how the tiny little kisses I give my boys at bedtime may be the most essential routine of my day. I’ve just written about bedtime routines and their importance for children’s health. But yesterday I realized how essential they are for their social emotional wellbeing, too.

Here’s why: yesterday my buoy arrived packaged as an NPR story I heard after dropping off my son at school. My 20-minute car commute was the most peaceful part of my day and thanks to Story Corp I believe I may think about the day for quite some time. If you’re not familiar with the movement, Story Corp is a collection of stories from Americans of all walks of life who interview family or friends about moments or relationships in their life. Nearly every story brings tears to my eyes. NPR is celebrating 10 years of capturing and broadcasting these stories. Yesterday’s interview was conducted by two sisters over two periods of time. They interviewed their father at the end of his life about what was most meaningful. It opens with Ken Morganstern’s voice clearly penetrating through his daughters’ devotion. We hear him say,

It’s a wonderful life, I get up in the morning, go to sleep at night, and in between eat three meals.

They continue to inquire about his life and family. They ask who was the best kid. And they all agree (I loved that)….He continues:

No regrets on anything; I have a family that I love and they’re loving people….that’s the biggest thing you can leave…a legacy, yah.

But it’s later in the interview that my buoy arrived. His daughters describe his bedtime routine with them during their childhood,

He was so present for us as kids…. I remember him putting us to sleep. He would just give us little baby kisses all over our face and on our eyelids and you’d just go off to sleep. It was the best

And it was then that I realized, no matter how high the stakes of our work or our volunteerism or our efforts on earth to make things better for our community, the things we do to reflect and share love with our children is not only boundless but potentially exceedingly memorable to them. It is perhaps the most important thing we ever do.