Lately I’ve been thinking about how much I say no.
That word – no – just seems to naturally roll off my tongue. I’m not sure why, but it seems like my default setting is no.
I tend to say no first and ask questions later (or think about why and perhaps change to yes later.) Sometimes I have legitimate reasons for this – like maybe I’m in a bad mood. But sometimes, I’ll admit that I say no for no reason.
Why, I wonder? Shouldn’t yeses -- or yesses, whatever that plural is-- come easier? I mean, I love my kids like crazy. I want them to live joyfully and to be happy. I want to give them as much freedom as possible to make their own decisions. I want them to love learning and fill their days with things that are important to them, so why so many no’s?
Maybe I have a subconscious need to keep up with the status quo. As I say no, sometimes I think, “Why am I saying no to this? Is it really wrong?”
Usually it’s not. Usually it’s more like “The other moms don’t do it this way! My friend doesn’t do it this way! My mom, my grandmother didn’t do it this way! So I shouldn’t let my kids do it this way, either!”
Wait a minute, though. My 7-year-old is not like yours, or another moms’, or even like my mom’s or my grandma’s 7-year-olds were. Nor is she like any other child in the entire world.
If she wants to wear a Viking helmet on her head and play the banjo on the way to the grocery store, why don’t I say yes? If my 8-year-old wants to fill a dozen egg cartons with the dirty rocks she dug up outside and sort them for hours in her room, why don’t I just say yes? If my 4-year-old wants to climb trees in a tutu and poke Cheerios down a chipmunk hole with her umbrella, what exactly is wrong with that?
I want to say yes more often. I really do.
I guess that sometimes I think my kids care mainly about the things I give them. But in all honesty, they probably care a lot more about the answers I give them. The yeses.
So when are some of the times when I should start saying yes when I usually say no?
Probably the times when I hear questions like these: Can I dig a big hole in the yard with this spoon? Blow bubbles in the car? Play with Play-doh in the kitchen? Dump the clothes out of the laundry basket and use it as a boat? Be the one who makes lunch for everybody? Play the drums? Stay at the library longer? Build a tent in the living room? Read just one more story? Decorate the house for a tea party? Make Jello? Have breakfast for dinner (again)? Stay up late and look at the stars?
These things might be messy or inconvenient or even downright annoying. But when I see the looks on my kids’ faces when they get a yes, it’s always worth it.
I know that my kids and my husband are gifts from God. I firmly believe that my purpose at this point in life is to be a mom (and admittedly not very much else!) If I view them and God (since I’m a Christian) as my main priorities, then I should be able to put them first and everything else to the side, right? Everything else should be secondary.
Interruptions, messes and inconveniences (which happen at my house all the time) can be moved to the back burner if I decide to stick to my priorities. If I decide to say yes.
And even though there will always be times to say no, next time I want to catch myself and make sure I have a good reason for it.
Surprise your kids (and yourself) with some unexpected yeses and see what happens. Maybe it will be a moment of unexpected joy! And don’t we all need more of those?