March 20 13

I have been thinking quite a little bit about the word NO recently and how often I might use it with my children. I’m not the only one, either.

And then I saw a tweet by one of my most favorite people (and writer at YMC):

Screen Shot 2013-03-20 at 9.33.01 AM

And it hit home. YES, indeed, I do say no to them quite an awful lot.

“Can I dye my hair auburn and get ombre?” NO!

“Can I have my Minecraft back? I know you said I lost it forever, but maybe forever can be a little bit shorter?” NO!

“Can I hold you hostage in your bedroom after I go to sleep because I really don’t want to be the only one upstairs at 8pm?” NO!

No. No. No. No to the movies that aren’t appropriate, no to the new cell phone, no to the new apps, no to the second dessert, no to wearing leggings as pants, no to not wearing a jacket in the dead of winter, no to a sleepover on a school night, no to pop with dinner, no you cannot skip a post-hockey shower, no to skipping homework that night, no to eating in the family room, no to using my laptop, no to giving them money and letting them walk to Starbucks after school.

The majority of my NOs seem completely justified—Safety. Cleanliness. Boundaries. Teaching independence. Isn’t this what my job is? To shape them into the best people they can become?

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But it’s the other NOs that I’m struggling with just a little bit.

No, I don’t want to play Ticket to Ride for the 5th time today.

No, I don’t just want to watch this episode of iCarly again.

No, I don’t want to hear about this cool butter house you made in Minecraft, when you were still allowed to play with it. I don’t understand Minecraft.

No, I don’t want to paint your toenails.

No, I don’t want to just watch this dance just this one time—I am in the middle of making meatballs.

No, I don’t want to discuss Harry Potter. At 2am.

No, I don’t really want to walk to the mailbox right now, I’m just in the middle of sending this important email.

And the truth is, I don’t want to do any of those things. I really don’t want to. I like games, but not all the time. I like iCarly just fine, but how many times can you watch her older brother try to pretend that he’s not, like, 37 years old. I don’t like any feet—even those that belong to my children. I don’t want to discuss anything at 2 in the am. I don’t want to go to the mailbox, it’s freezing outside.

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On Sunday, I watched my son’s face when I told him I wasn’t coming to watch his playoff hockey game.

That look.

It will never go away.

Could I have put on some pants and my parka and gone to watch him play a game that he kind of sort of hates? Sure. Could the important thing I was doing at that moment waited a few hours? Sure. Could I have figured out a different dinner situation so I could go see my son on the ice? Sure. But I didn’t.

And now I see that look. All the damn time.

Last night, while their father was out of town, while I had a sink full of spaghetti-and-meatballs dishes that needed to be washed, while I had eight important emails to respond to, while I had permission slips to sign and homework to check, while I had piles of laundry to fold, while I had work to do, I called an emergency meeting in my bedroom.

They thought they were in trouble. They thought they were going to get yelled at. Instead, they got a very important life lesson.

They got taught to play BULLSHIT. For high stakes.


We played for hours while the dishes and homework and permission slips and laundry and emails and work waited.

And someone might have gotten some surprise ombre hair too.

Because saying YES feels about 147 times better than saying NO.

  1. I have a feeling this is going to be something I may struggle with as I learn to be a stepmom. I find myself telling Dylan “no” or “don’t” far more than anything else – especially when it comes to the close quarters of the townhouse.

    I’m going to practice saying “yes” when I can. :)


    ali replied on

    I struggle with it quite a bit, since I don’t get much ME time. When they were little and went to bed at 7pm, it was easy for me to spend all of their waking hours with them—because I’d have the entire evening to stuff FOR ME. But now that I have kids who go to bed at 10pm, 10:45pm etc. I never get that down time. So there are way more hours in the day for me to say no. Heh.


    Comment by Darcey on March 20, 2013
  2. Thank you for reminding us all that “yes” is the best way to build a good relationship with your children. My husband and I try to avoid “no”, even when we are saying it. As in “Mom, can I get a pet rattlesnake?”. Instead of “no” we say “Of course! As soon as you are 18 and move out and have your OWN place!”. You’d be surprised how well this method works for all kinds of stuff! It also forces us to pause for a moment and examine the requests, which in turn forces us to examine whether or not the “no” is a valid one, and sometimes they turn into “yes” organically that way. Great blog!


    Comment by papayajambalaya on March 20, 2013
  3. Oh, boy. The amount of no in my house (guess what: that damn ombre word can kiss my ass! I don’t want to hear it again!) is astronomical. I do this often, though, when I hear myself and how ridiculous my NO is. Because that crestfallen face? That hurts. Outside of the word no, my most often said phrase is “in a minute.” I’m tired of hearing that one myself.


    ali replied on

    I recently told one of my kids: Count to 30 and I will be there to help you.

    It gave me twenty seconds to finish up what I was in the middle of, and the kid didn’t feel like I was saying no or “just a second” which unfortunately I use quite a bit.


    Comment by Arnebya on March 20, 2013
  4. Oh wow, I was actually nodding as I read this. Nodding. By myself. “Not right now, later okay?” is a little gem often heard around here. Thanks for sharing this. It’s an important reminder for us all, no? I mean…yes!


    Comment by Lisa on March 20, 2013
  5. OMG! You did? You let her get her hair done??

    And yes, I read the whole post. And all I kept thinking was like “man, it must have been nice when I was there and I am such a sucker and played Pretty Pretty Princess a million times and went to the mailbox.”

    I feel like this is so hard. I don’t know how I would do it if I had kids. I have a hard time when I’m with my niece and nephew and in the middle of a conversation and they want to show me EVERYTHING! And want me to play EVERYTHING! And I just want to relax and I have to say no. And then I feel bad. And then I buy them donuts.

    But one thing I know for certain is those kids know how much they are loved.


    Comment by Kristabella on March 20, 2013
  6. For the record, I think you are a wonderful mama. I hope I’ll be as good a mom to my somewhere-down-the-line kids as your are to your lovely bunch.

    And teaching kids to play Bullshit should be a right of passage for all kids and their parents, so two thumbs up, even if it meant a lot more work for you later. It sounds like it was worth it though.


    ali replied on

    Aw, thanks!

    It was totally worth it and totally so much fun.


    Comment by aly on March 20, 2013
  7. It’s hard. But some NOs are totally needed.

    I just tell my kids outright, “Listen, I’m glad to talk to you about any number of things – you know, a real conversation – but conversations about video games, weird dreams, and disgusting things you did at the lunch table are three things I have never been interested in and never will be interested in. It’s not you. It’s me.”

    And more recently, I had a blow up and pointed out that up until now, I’ve been responsible for most of the grunt work in the house, and that being the household Cinderella living with Mean Stepsisters sucks. After doing All The Work, no, I’m less inclined to be in the mood for fun. Sorry. That’s not how Mommyhood works. Just because I have kids doesn’t mean I magically begin to enjoy the never-ending rocks I keep pushing up hills daily only to have them roll back down on me. And so, from now on, Mommy will be more of a fun Mommy because the kids will be doing more of their own work.

    That didn’t go over well, but tough crap. If they want a mom who says Yes more, they can be kids who say Yes more. The end. :-)


    ali replied on

    f they want a mom who says Yes more, they can be kids who say Yes more. The end.


    Comment by Josette Plank on March 20, 2013
  8. I LOVE this post so much. I’m so there with you, and it’s such a struggle.
    I just switched from having a membership at a yoga studio I love (and miss) to a family Y membership because I got so tired of saying no to my kids wanting to come with me. I totally get where you’re coming from.
    By the way … MINECRAFT. OMG. that’s all Matt wants to talk about. Portals, houses, etc. I don’t get it.


    Comment by Laural on March 20, 2013
  9. Oh, I am SO GLAD I am not the only one. I hate That Look. Kaylie does it SO WELL and it’s as if I just slit the throat of the puppy she just received. Hurt and disappointment. I need to say yes more often, but I’m with ya. I just don’t want to do some things. Or I have “more important” things to do.

    I have 18 straight days of single parenting coming up. Starting tomorrow. I’m aiming to say yes more often in those 18 days, and, hopefully, after them, too.


    Comment by Jen Wilson on March 20, 2013
  10. This sort of made me cry. I hate saying no, as you know, to my children, and I find it harder to say no to the important stuff like no more cookies, no more toys, etc. than I do saying no to playing Batman again, or watching them play Mario Bros. Last night my five year old asked me to play Mario Bros. and I said no, it was too late. I mean, what’s five more minutes, you know? I get this, I so, so get this. And this is why I do whatver I can to make sure even if I hate doing it—like I really suck at Mario Bros. now!—I will still try my hardest to not say no the important stuff like this. And to Minecraft. Because our kid are the cutest and seriously, how cool is a butter house or whatever new thing they’re so creatively… creating? You know? xo


    Comment by Loukia on March 20, 2013
  11. amazing post Ali…Its so true. I find it so hard especially being a single mom and having to be good cop and bad cop all the time myself. But lately, so many no’s. He told me he wanted another mom the other day…sob. Thanks for the reminder.


    Comment by Sara on March 21, 2013
  12. Love this. Because we’re twins, per usual.


    Comment by Angella on March 21, 2013
  13. It always feels better to say yes. Love this post.


    Comment by Candace on March 26, 2013
  14. [...] When the world seems upside-down, I grab the control where I can. I can say yes more. [...]

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