Lately, I’ve been saying no a lot. (Like a lot, a lot.)
“Can we go to the movies?”
“No. Mommy has a headache.”
“Can we go to the park?”
“No. It’s too humid and stuffy. It’s too hot.”
“Well, can we have ice cream?”
“Ha! Good try but no. Definitely not. But you know the rule: no ice cream before coffee. Before Cheerios. Before breakfast.”
Of course, rules and boundaries are an essential part of parenting. It is how we teach our children what is right and what is wrong. It is how we teach our children what is acceptable and what is unacceptable, and it is how we keep our children healthy and safe. “No’s” are lessons in the making, but lately I have been saying the word for no real reason.
I have been saying it carelessly and without intention, point, or a single purpose.
And, if I’m being honest, it sucks. I feel like a buzzkill, a killjoy, a grinch AND a grouch.
That said, I still find myself saying it. The word just slips right out: “no jumping. No splashing. No pointing. No poking. No running. Stop running. No screaming. Did you hear me,” I scream. “No. Screaming.”
So when my daughter looked at me late last night and said “can I jump in puddles” my first instinct was to say no. We had things to do and places to go. Errands to run and groceries to buy, and let’s not forget she had her good shoes on. The light up kind that wouldn’t dry easily. But instead of snapping, I caved.
I said yes.
Make no mistake: I don’t know why I said yes. Perhaps the cooler weather calmed my nerves. Perhaps the light in her eyes sparked something in my heart, or perhaps I was just tired: tired of doing nothing and saying nothing. Perhaps I was tired of saying no. But the reason doesn’t really matter; what matters is what happened after I said “go ahead.”
What matters is what happened after I said “yes.”
Because as soon as I said “yes” my daughter was off. She was running and jumping, laughing and splashing and she was kicking her way through the front yard, down the sidewalk, and out into the street.
Of course, it didn’t take long for her to get dirty and messy and to oh-so-very wet. Within seconds, her shoes were soaked. Her socks were soaked. Her pants looked heavy, and I was certain her underwear was soggy but her eyes were bright. Her smile was big. Her laugh was contagious, and I have no doubt that her heart was full.
So very full.
And in that moment I remembered the importance of saying yes, not all the time but sometimes. Especially to the “play times.”
You see, my little girl is growing up so quickly — so very quickly — and I know it is only a matter of time before puddles lose their joy and magic. Before the “little things” in life lose their allure. And I know it is only a matter time before she loathes wasted time and wet shoes, just like me.
Just like her “no, stop it, not right now” mom.
But yesterday wasn’t that day. I wouldn’t let yesterday be that day, and instead of stopping her, I stopped myself.
I ran and laughed and splashed alongside her.
Make no mistake: parenting isn’t easy. Sometimes it takes firmness and sterness. Sometimes we NEED to say no. But don’t be so rigid you lose sight of the little things. Don’t forget to say yes.
Your children will thank you, as will your heart.