Being a mom · entertaining the kiddos · Parenting

“Yes” when I can, “No” when it counts.

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Three years ago I posted this pic of 2½  year old Charlie Grace on Instagram with the caption:

Working on Saying YES to her this summer.

Yes to shoes on the wrong feet.

Yes to running through a random sprinkler on our walk.

Yes to two Hello Kitty bandaids instead of one.

#YESwhenIcan #NOwhenItcounts

It was the beginning of Summer and we were on an after-dinner walk with daddy and baby Will {who was a new little visitor in our home at the time. cue ugly cry because time flies and he called me mama spontaneously this week}. This photo perfectly captures Charlie’s joy; but when I look at it, the thing I remember most is how much stress this moment caused me and how hard it was for me to say ‘yes’ and allow her to run through that sprinkler. That probably sounds crazy to you, but hear me out.

I have an anxious personality. My mind automatically jumps to the worst case scenario and the ‘what ifs’. What if she slips and falls in the puddles from the sprinklers and knocks out her front teeth?  Wearing her shoes on the wrong feet will cause her to have lifelong gait problems! Giving her two bandaids when she only needs one is teaching her wastefulness! and on and on. That’s the way my brain works. If it can go wrong in any way, I’ve already predicted it and now my answer is ‘no’.

I wouldn’t label myself as a helicopter parent, per se {and you might be rolling your eyes and calling me a liar at that statement}, but I totally own up to having hovering and protecting tendencies. Ideally, I’d like my parenting style {and CB’s} to be somewhere in the middle between Helicopter and Free Range, and we’re still working on finding that nice balance. I need to let go of some of those hovering/protecting tendencies because I don’t want my anxieties to negatively shape the way my kiddos see the world. The more effort I put into preventing them from experiencing anything bad or hurtful, the more I rob them of chances to build coping skills, confidence, and problem solving abilities.

In order to make sure I’m not micromanaging them and I’m allowing them to try things out without my cloud of anxiety hovering over them, I follow a simple rule each Summer:

ColorPoppin' (2)

YES it’s fine if you have another popsicle.

OF COURSE you can wear your high heels and Batman mask to the store.

SURE you can take all the cushions and pillows off the couch and make an obstacle course the likes of which even American Ninja Warrior can’t compete.

YOU BETCHA you can paint your own nails, doncha know.

ABSOLUTELY you can read 12 books before bed.

{that is… read them to yourself. Mommy’s max book count is 2 per night}

YUP, I’ll let you guys sit in that giant 9 seater Target cart that looks like a car and you think is fun because you get your own steering wheel. I can’t wait to get in some good cardio pushing you all around.

FER SHER you can use all the pompoms, googly eyes, and glue on one square inch of construction paper that will eventually be thrown away, doncha know.

ROGER THAT on the ‘doing your own hair’ thing. It’s going to look amazing.

10-4. You can use your kid watering can to drown all my plants and wash all the mulch down to the gutter.

NO,  YOU MAY NOT CUT YOUR OWN HAIR. I draw the ‘yes’ line at scissors + hair.

We’re not saying ‘yes’ so our kiddos will like us and think of us as friends. We say ‘yes’ when we can so our ‘no’ responses are meaningful. If our kiddos come to us with requests expecting and assuming an immediate refusal because we always say ‘no’, they might stop asking and instead start doing without permission. The respectful communication lines we’ve built might start to close.

I will never forget the time in 7th grade that my mom gave me a ‘yes’ response to my crazy, ridiculous request. Back in the day when I was in 7th grade I had braces and glasses and bangs. Let me clarify: I had bangs, but I also have curly hair, so instead of a nice fringe bang that hung down and framed my cute face in a hella fresh way, they sort of stuck out like a little tangled tumbleweed on my forehead. So while we all had our issues in middle school…. I had it bad y’all. For some crazy reason, it was cool at my school {and particularly on my bus} to make your own fun-dip and bring it to school. That is, mix sugar and Kool-Aid packets together.  DON’T ASK ME HOW THE MIDDLE SCHOOL MIND WORKS. I was one once just as you were but I DO NOT KNOW. I can’t help you understand your middle schooler. Anyway, I guess it was like drugs for the kids who were cool but not willing to get mixed up in the hardcore drugs and get kicked off the football team. So….. DIY fun dip. Let’s call it Fip {fake fun dip}. I wanted my own Fip so badly, but in my 7th grade mind I just knew my mom would think it was ridiculous and wasteful and I shouldn’t care what other kids think of me and yada yada. So I tried making some in secret, but I guess I made a lot of noise climbing onto the kitchen counters to dig for the Kool-Aid packs and she caught me. But, y’all, she didn’t embarrass me or even really ask probing questions as to why I wanted it. She said YES. She even gave me a cute little Tupperware container to carry it in. I was all that and a bag of chips on the bus that week and I still remember that ‘yes’ to this day.

To me, instead of just hearing ‘yes’, I heard “I see that this is something important to you, so it’s important to me too”. Such a simple event, but it really strengthened the roots of my relationship with my mom. Our foundation of respect became solid because she respected me. In turn, I was more willing to respect her decisions as my parent, even if they were a ‘no’.

This post might not strike you as meaningful if your parenting style is on the other end of the spectrum as mine, where ‘yes’ comes easy to you and your kids are living their best life knowing you’ll let them do their own thing. But maybe you’re like me and you keep a tight reign on every experience and let your worries and need for control guide your decision making. Let’s keep in mind, if all our responses are ‘no’, that word begins to lose some weight. When we save ‘no’ for when it truly matters, it gains meaning and respect.

It’s a true balancing act, but so important for us as parents to find that ‘just right’ relationship between protecting our kiddos and giving them freedom to experience things and make their own decisions, no matter their age. It starts this summer…. because baby steps. Join me! #TheSummerOfYes

Ait, I’m gonna bounce.

 

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