Throughout my life, I’ve gone through many stages of ups and downs emotionally. When I’m in an up, I’ll say yes to everything and be excited by the prospects that affirmative presents. When I’m in the down mode, I will say no to everything because doing one more task makes me want to curl up in a ball and never move again.
It’s a pretty extreme difference, I grant you, but I was used to ping-ponging between as a youth, then as an adult, and then as a romantic partner. However, once marriage and motherhood hit the mix, there had to be some changes. I was no longer saying yes or no to my life and future, but also that of my child, then children, and, occasionally, my husband.
Curling into a fetal ball is no longer an option.
So I’ve been trying (seven years later) to master the art of balance between yes and no, and somewhat succeeding…I’ve had to categorize the circumstances between outer and inner family to help me with my process.
This is the dynamic between myself, my husband, and my children. As my husband travels most of the year, the dynamic is very often between my children and myself. Finding the balance with them is particularly difficult regarding “No.” Anyone with an adorable elementary schooler with eyes the size of saucer plates and the ability to tug the heartstring with her pitiful state if she can’t do x, y, and z, should understand the difficulties of saying no.
I try to be as balanced with my NOs as my YESs with her, but her eager imagination, which has her building a treehouse with wood and electrical tools right after school…today….now…often elicits a pretty firm negative from me. I try to weigh the number of times I’ve had to say no to her before saying it again in the day. So, when she begs and pleads for just one more “100 Days in Minecraft” video or to pull out all the glue and cardboard to make a model spaceship from “Over the Moon,” I often give a yes and try not to worry too much about brain rot or messes.
With my two-year-old, I’m playing the quite explosive game of how to say no without actually using the word no. When I forget to get creative, we have a meltdown as effusive as a volcano breaking through its mantle for the first time in a century; it is often in public and quite stressful. There is little I won’t do to avoid such a situation. However, I can’t say yes all the time…obviously.
I’ve discovered the trick for my little Rose is to not focus on the no and instead engage her in a game of yeses.
Oh, you want another cookie? I can understand that! The cookies are delicious! When we get home, do you want to play with playdough and make some cookies? Yes! Perfect!
You want mommy to hold you right this very second? I am driving, sweetie, but do you want to snuggle with mommy when we get home? Do you want to snuggle on the couch or on the bed? Do you want to have Minnie or Elmo snuggle with us?
Get her into a cycle of yes and positive answers, and she forgets the pending Mount Vesuvius-style meltdown.
This includes the relationship between our core family members, such as grandparents, cousins, and friends, as well as church, sports, and school. I find it is often hard for me to say yes when it comes to the outer family. I often want to answer no first because I get overwhelmed with the details.
Would you like to go view wildflowers and hike along this beautiful creek? Yes, I really would.
But…what if I get there and the toddler has fallen asleep in the car and spends the entire time crying because her nap was interrupted. There are ticks, and I really like pork. Lillie could try to jump into the creek and fall off a waterfall! There are going to be spiders. What happens if the toddler eats a flower and it’s poisonous. Are snakes awake yet? What if I don’t bring enough water? Should I pack lunch? Do we need jackets or sunscreen or diapers? Will I be able to hold the toddler the whole time? If not, what if we run into a bear, and I can’t grab her quickly enough…
Do you hear the anxiety talking? Me too.
This is what usually leads me to a no in these situations. It’s not that I don’t want to participate; I get immediately wrapped up in a million little details a mom of two has to plan for even the most basic outing and the fears my anxiety-riddled soul grapples with constantly.
So, to counteract my almost immediate negative, I’ve tried to say…maybe. Then, I sit back and figure out if my impulse to say no has a real reason: Is there a scheduling conflict? Can our family afford it? Do I think it will be fun/educational for myself or the girls? Finally, am I leaning toward no because I am really not interested in the outing, or is this my anxiety talking?
The entire process is a bit exhausting in and of itself, and I do think I still land on no too often. However, I am at least self-reflecting and trying to push myself beyond my anxiety barriers and into the real world. It’s important as a mother that I give myself grace, but do so in a way that does not hinder my children’s experiences and growth. So, as we reach spring and summer, here’s hoping I stay open and willing to have a good balance between yes and no!