Saying “no” can be hard. Sometimes it starts a tantrum. Sometimes it puts up a wall. Sometimes it just feels icky, selfish, or snobby.
Saying “no” can also be great– it can be empowering, help us establish healthy boundaries, and add an inch or two of psychic space.
As moms, we have to say “NO” a lot. I’ll speak for myself here– I don’t always enjoy it, usually for the first reason I noted up there; it starts tantrums.
Sometimes we learn to say “no” in creative ways. I’ll never forget the training I went to about children with intense behavioral issues in foster care. The trainer encouraged his audience to say “yes” whenever possible, to avoid the confrontation that ensues when a kid hears “no”.
He gave the example of a time when one of the children he’d adopted was being provocative and asked for a sexy blow-up doll. The man told him, “Yes! Of course you can get a sexy blow-up doll when you are 18 and you can use your own money.”
I’m not really sure how saying “no” by saying “yes” in that matter is really supposed to diminish the impatient rage of an edgy individual with a premature pre-frontal cortex, but I always think of that example when I have to give a creative “no” to one of my own children.
Sometimes I stop and wonder about why I am saying “no” to something my children request. Often, I am trying to be a good parent, set limits, keep them safe, and be consistent. I also say “no” sometimes when I am really tired, anxious, or overwhelmed and just don’t have the energy to deal with a blanket fort, hyperactivity from another round of Swedish fish, or random mud.
There are other times when I say “no” as a knee jerk reaction without really thinking about it.
I was about to tell Emily “no” to the second cookie. We had all gotten home late and were rushing around to do dinner and bathing before TV, stories, and bedtime. Emily had eaten her first cookie partially en route to the tub, partially while on the potty, and finished it off standing in the foamy, warm water of her tub.
I stopped myself from being OCD about her eating in the bathroom. Usually it is not allowed. I mean, all the time it is not allowed. But she was being cooperative, and it was a good cookie. Homemade chocolate chip. OK, it was the pre-made Trader Joe’s chocolate chip cookie dough, but I did bake it myself, so there.
She asked if she could have another cookie after her bath. Jack had had two.
It was on the tip of my tongue to say “no,” because it was late, and because chocolate at bedtime, but I didn’t. I told her she could have another cookie.
She finished bathing, dried herself, and put on jammies all on her own.
I gave her the second cookie.
She was delighted. So was I.
It felt nice to say “yes” to her.
Actually, it was the best part of my day.
As a working mom, I don’t get a lot of time with my kids. It makes me crazy. The time that we do have together is usually spent trying to rush to get something done so we can get something else done, because our society is effed up like this. So, a lot of the time we spend together feels efficient, business-like, and downright miserable.
Don’t get me wrong– I often have the best of intentions and am just working overtime trying to keep my kids clean, healthy, and well-behaved.
But sometimes I just want to say screw it all and see what happens.
Oh man, is it hard for me to let go, though.
Saying “yes” to the second cookie was a little start.