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