At church during Vacation Bible School a couple weeks ago, I taught the kids a lesson during which they had to respond to several yes/no questions. The twist was they had to answer in a language other than English: oui, non, da, nyet, si, no, jah, nein. It was pretty entertaining. We sounded like a meeting of the United Nations, which was appropriate, since the theme of the week was New York City.
Well, that started me thinking about how often I have to say yes or no every day at home: No, you can't have candy for breakfast; Yes, you have to brush your teeth; Yes, flamingos stand on one leg quite often; No, you may not lick the toilet (sadly these are all actual statements overheard in my house this week).
Chris and I sometimes get so exhausted it seems like all we ever say is "no." I catch myself saying it almost out of habit, and then I stop and ask "Why not?" Is there really cause to answer with a no on this issue, or am I just tired of making decisions and cleaning up messes? Can I paint, Mommy? (Why not?) Can we have lunch on the floor in the living room like a picnic? (Why not?) Can we stay in our pjs and watch a movie this morning? (Why not?) Can we have peanut butter and sprinkles on our pancakes? (Why not?) Can I help you make the cornbread? (Why not?) Can we have a playdate tomorrow with _____ ? (Why not?)
Some people call it picking your battles, and I guess that's basically the idea. I don't want to be the "No Mom". Being a "Yes Parent" who reserves her no's for when there's a solid reason seems much more furry and cuddly, right? Is it going to hurt someone, make someone sick, show disrepect to someone, destroy something, annoy someone, or start a very bad habit? If yes, then the answer is "no." If not, then why not?
Same goes for grown-up stuff too -- why say no to something new or something that might be fun just because it might require a little extra effort on my part or it might mess with my routine a little bit? Usually, I'm glad later that I didn't dismiss the idea and just went for it instead. Why not stay an extra day, try something different on the menu, take the scenic detour, or meet back up later? Even those numerous trips, tasks, or chores that I simply don't want to do but are important to someone else and might bring them happiness -- why not?
But there is also the important art of when to own my "No".
I frequently find myself saying yes to ideas, projects, and tasks without giving them much thought at all, and then I am completely worn out from all that yes action. Is the goal something that is helpful to my family or to someone else? Is the outcome worth my time and energy? Will it be memorable or forgettable? If nobody really cares and it's just something on a guilt-soaked mental to-do list that will only drain me of energy and put me in a bad mood -- no.
I'm a work in progess, but I am close to mastering three skills involving yes and no:
1. If something will make my kids happy, help them learn something meaningful, or make memories, and there is no real reason to say no, I try to say yes. I sometimes still struggle with getting my butt in gear, though.
2. I try not to apologize or make excuses for my no's; I just say no. I'd rather be given the options and decide for myself if a or b is beneficial enough for our time. Then I can give an honest yes or no, without all the animal dung that we usually attach to our responses.
3. I try to accept "no" as a perfectly appropriate response from other people. Do they really need a reason other than they just don't want to if the choice in question is not that important? Nope.
I guess writing a blog somehow landed on the yes list -- Oui, Da, Si, Jah!