My junior or senior year of college I was hanging out with a friend who had just come back from a baby shower. I had never been to a baby shower before so I was asking her all about it, and she mentioned some of the more seasoned moms sharing advice, her favorite being: “Say yes as much as possible.” I wasn’t even at the shower, but for whatever reason, that stuck with me and now that I’m a mom nearly 10 years later, I think about it often.
It is so easy to say “No” as a parent. And it is absolutely necessary sometimes. “No, you cannot touch the burning hot kettle, it’s not safe.” “No, you can’t wake up your sister right now, she’s sleeping.” “No, you can’t have M&Ms for breakfast, it’s not healthy.”
But it’s also easy to say no simply because I don’t feel like doing something or because it’ll take an extra two minutes to get out the door. “I want to put my shoes on!” This one makes me cringe, because Olivia can’t quite get her sneakers on by herself yet so I just want to take over. But how is she going to learn if I never give her the chance to try? Or she likes climbing into the car and into her car seat, but sometimes I just want to get moving and lift her right in; she then gets frustrated and we end up with a tantrum that could have been so easily avoided. She still needs to learn how to respond in frustrating circumstances, but I also need to slow down and let my toddler feel that sense of exploration and independence, and be willing to be one minute later than I was hoping.
I have also been trying to find a way to combine the best of both worlds. So when Olivia asks for M&Ms in the morning, rather than just saying no, I try to say, “Not right now, but maybe after your nap.” Or if she wants to wake up Avery, “We can’t wake her up right now, but when we go get her, do you want to turn the lights on or the sound machine off?” Rather than a stark “No,” I’m trying to think about how I can meet her half way and offer another option rather than simply shut down her wishes.
I also need to work on my heart! Because quite honestly, sometimes I just don’t want to do what she’s asking and would rather say no. I don’t feel like going outside right now. I don’t want to read that same book for the thousandth time. I don’t feel like getting sticky with slime.
Now, there’s a time and place for everything. It’s okay for me to have wants and dislikes, and it’s okay (and right!) that Olivia doesn’t always get what she wants. But when she asks for something and the first response that comes to mind is “No,” I need to think about my reasoning:
Am I saying no because I just don’t want to?
Is her request safe?
Is it possible in this moment?
Can we do it later or another day?
I am not perfect at this and we all need lots of grace as we figure out this whole parenting thing, but let’s work together on trying to say “Yes” more often!