It’s the thought that counts. I remember the days when the same thing crossed my mind every time I heard that exact “thought.”

Yeah. Right.

Any time in the first 20-something years of my life, I knew you could have the thought. I even appreciated the thought most of the time. But I’d still take the good gifts.

Man. Life has a way of changing things.

So as I was sitting on the couch as my 43rd birthday officially hit at midnight earlier this week, life officially slapped me in the face.

And at least this time, it was in the best way possible.

My 16-year-old Sierra and 14-year-old Spring came walking out of their bedroom at the stroke of midnight with an entire gift basket in hand.

If I may say so myself, it ranks up there among the best gift baskets I’ve ever gotten.

Exactly what was in this treasure chest?

Cowboys or Astros tickets?

A weekend giveaway?

Not completely.

The gift bag I hope I’ll never forget featured a card, a pair of two-liter Dr Peppers, a box of pens, Butterfingers and a box of Reeses Pieces.

I’m not sure what they spent. But I know exactly how it made me feel.

Something about seeing the card from two daughters that made the All-A Honor Roll made me appreciate their sense of humor as much as their thoughtfulness.

I’ll save those exact messages for later.

And if I can clarify, it’s a present I wouldn’t trade for anything.

I’ve known it for a few years, but this time it went straight to my head in no unclear terms. It really is the thought that matters.

I’d told them for weeks that I don’t want or need anything from them on my birthday other than to spend the day with me.

I thought it was good enough when Sierra asked for a day off from work for that very purpose.

Yet here I was at 12:01 fighting back the tears you mostly get when you get to a certain age. We shared big hugs and a selfie I could post on social media.

So as I sat there on the couch an hour later, I started overthinking things more than I probably should.

Other than the obvious reason of having my daughters give me a present, I was still thinking of why it meant just a little bit more this time around.

We always like to wonder what makes the perfect present.

Exactly what price can we reach to make our loved ones perfectly happy?

Yet in younger minds, the simplicity is down to a science.

Our dad’s a writer. Let’s get him pens.

He likes Dr Pepper. Let’s get him a few drinks.

Dad gets us snacks. Let’s get him snacks.

I’m not completely naive. I know the finances of a 16-year-old with a part-time job and a 14-year-old without a job go into the decision to get their dad snacks, drinks, a card and pens.

But I promise I’d be just as happy with the gift if I make it to 60.

Later that day, the family didn’t disappoint.

Sixteen-year-old Jaylen sent me a birthday text out of nowhere and 14-year-old Cameron wished me happy birthday before giving me details on his own baseball game.

And they weren’t too ashamed to show up for my birthday dinner.

For anyone with teenagers, them simply remembering a birthday seems impossible.

My wife Barb put together a masterpiece of a collage of my sports adventures with family and friends with every picture bringing back another memory.

As I’m reaching my mid-40s, I admit it probably took too long for me to fully understand that it’s the thought that really counts the most.

But if you see me any time soon, don’t be mad if I don’t share a Butterfinger or a pen.

And now back to those grammatically incorrect smart aleck comments on my birthday card from a couple of straight-A students.

Spring and Sierra certainly know grammar mistakes are one of my pet peeves. Therefore, they obviously couldn’t help themselves even though they know better.

So these are the gems they left me.

“Happy birthday. – Your favoritest daughter — Spring.”

“Have the bestest day ever/even though you have Spring as a daughter. Happy birthday, from Sierra.”

Thanks to those that mean the most to me, I can honestly say it was the “bestest day ever.”

I hope I can do it all over again next year.

Josh Havard’s email address is

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