There is one day every year when Jennifer Garner lets her children do whatever they want. If that sounds like a recipe for lawlessness, think again. She says the requests of her three kids – Violet, 15, Seraphina, 12, and Samuel, nine – that she shares with ex-husband Ben Affleck, are usually pretty tame.
The idea is called a ‘yes day’, and comes from a children’s book of the same name by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrator Tom Lichtenheld in which parents say yes to every request (as long as it’s not dangerous or illegal) – such as pizza for breakfast and using gel to style hair into a mohawk – for 24 hours.
Now the book has inspired a film, also called Yes Day, and stars 48-year-old Garner and The Undoing’s Edgar Ramirez as the parents who reluctantly agree to give in to their three children’s wishes for a day – including dressing up in wild costumes, water balloon fights and a trip to a theme park.
“I read the book to my kids,” Garner remembers, “and my middle daughter just loved this calendar in it that says all the nos, and at the very end it says yes on the last day. It’s very easy to think of yes day as only being over the top and, granted, we are a wish fulfilment movie, but I really have learned over nine years of doing yes days with my kids, that it’s little things.
“Like, ‘When the car is parked, can I put my head out of the sunroof? Can I sit in the front seat and turn all the knobs?’ You don’t even realise how many nos are implied in a kid’s life, because they’ve heard it so many times they’ve stopped asking. So it’s just letting that free and just having a little bit of fun, staying up late, choosing the cereal at the grocery store.
“For my kid’s it’s buying lottery tickets, things I would never do, or stopping at a gas station and letting them get junk food and lottery tickets, things like that. And it’s the energy of giving your entire attention to your kids for an entire day with a whole lot of yes, yes, yes – that is what it’s really about. Although the big stuff is fun too.”
Garner has been doing these days for so long that she evangelises about what they have brought to her family life. “My kid’s yes days have always ended in a late night out in the backyard,” she says with a smile over Zoom. “We have ours in August, almost always, at the end of summer when I’ve run out of anything fun to do and they just need to go back to school, and we are trying to fight our way there.
“Having a s’more [campfire treat] in the backyard all together and playing flashlight tag and then going to sleep in a tent in the backyard, it’s just that you’ve earned the feeling of cosiness by the end of the day that is special.”
Yes Day will be released on Netflix on March 12.