There is a nightly ritual at the Sanders’ house. During this regular routine, I have experienced some of my most cherished memories with my kids. Once our small army has scrubbed behind their ears, brushed their teeth and tidied their rooms, they turn out the lights, jump in bed and wait for Dad to make the rounds. With six kids, making the rounds has been known to take more than an hour, but it is something I wouldn’t miss for the world.

Every night, I make a pit stop in each bedroom. While my actions have become predictable, the varied reactions I receive make the experience rich. My kids now confess it is hard for them to go to sleep without Dad stopping by.

No matter how busy the day has been or where our schedules may have led us, the kids have grown accustomed to hearing me ask if there is anything I should know about or need to be aware of in their lives. I close our time together with a kiss and the same brief prayer each night.

Some nights, the lights go out quickly. Other nights, we end up talking about everything from how to improve a baseball player’s swing to why God allows small children to suffer. The topics change, but the time together won’t be missed.

More than once, the dimming of the lights has been delayed in search of Fluffy, the wonder dog. As you might suspect, Fluffy is my 5-year old daughter’s stuffed toy. Journeys to sleepy town aren’t nearly as fun without Fluffy along for the ride. With Fluffy at her side, the world is a better place and sweet dreams are guaranteed. Fluffy seems to disappear on the same nights that hitting the hay isn’t such a good idea in the opinion of the small fry in my life.

During one of my recent trips around the house tucking everyone into bed, my 5-year-old asked me one of those penetrating questions that test your parenting skills. Sophia asked, “Daddy, why am I so special, and why do you think I’m beautiful?” She had heard me say it a thousand times. But on this particular night, she wanted to go a little deeper.

As I looked into her beautiful blue eyes and touched her golden blonde hair, I thought; what woman, young or old, doesn’t want to feel special and beautiful. What an incredible privilege and responsibility to assure my little girl that she is special and beautiful in every way. I recognize the image she has of me and the image she has of herself will influence the way she sees God and her self-esteem for a lifetime.

“Sophia, you are special because you are a gift to me from God. You are beautiful because you look just like your mother,” I said. That’s all she needed to hear. She gave me a big hug and said, “I love you Daddy, you’re the best.”

I hope Fluffy gets lost every night if it results in moments frozen in time like these. I can’t help but think how it must make my Heavenly Father smile. Isn’t it wonderful to know we are His children, and He thinks we’re special and beautiful as well?