Jerry Dempsey’s family always had a special bedtime routine when his three daughters were younger: share three things you did today before going to bed.
Though his daughters have all grown up, the family’s routine lives on through a children’s book written by Dempsey and his youngest daughter, Maureen Zysset, who is now 28.
Dempsey, who works for Bellevue University’s Corporate Learning Group, said his book, “Tell Me Three Things That You Did Today,” has been a story in the works since the 1990s.
“I had written a poem 20 years ago, and this poem sat around on the shelf of the house,” he said. ”One day I wrote the thrust of this story and turned the poem into a longer story, and the longer story sat on the shelf for many years.”
The story centers around 5-year-old Maureen, who lives in a “chaotic” home with her two sisters, Kathryn and Margaret; her mom, Jeanne; her father, Jerry; and the family dog, Bandit. With such a busy household, however, Maureen and her father are able to take a few minutes every night recounting three things they did that day.
Dempsey said this was always an important part of his and his daughters’ day.
“Maureen especially enjoyed the process of doing that,” he said.
Dempsey said he wanted to publish this story after his first grandson was born. After three years, the story was complete.
He found help from his daughter, who has a marketing background, as well as illustrator Bruce Arant of Omaha and publisher Marie Galastro of MLG Associates.
Arant, who’s been in the publishing industry for 19 years, said the illustrating process for this family story was “unlike any other book” he’s illustrated.
“I normally create the appearance of characters, but I was asked to make the characters in this story look like the actual members of the Dempsey family,” he said. “It was a challenging project, but also a lot of fun.”
The illustrations were created with ink, watercolors and chalk pastels.
Zysset said the story “hit close to home.”
“My family is big on nostalgic-type gestures,” she said. “It’s important to remember the most important people in your life are under the same roof as you.”
Arant said he also related to the story.
“Connecting with one’s children and truly listening to them — especially at bedtime — is a very powerful thing that I think is too often brushed aside by parents, because we’re all so wiped out at the end of the day,” he said. “I love the portrayal of a parent really taking the time to show interest in their child’s day.”
Dempsey said he’s interested in reading his book to schools and libraries, and has even thought of ideas for new stories in the future.
“I enjoyed this process so much, and working with Bruce so much,” he said. “I hope people sit down and enjoy their children and talk to them.”
Zysset, who’s expecting her first child in January, said she’s excited to share this “nostalgic” piece of work with her family.
“Giving undivided attention to children is very important,” she said. “It was fun to share this special story with family and friends so they can learn from it and connect with their children.”
For more information on “Tell Me Three Things That You Did Today,” visit threethingsbook.com.