Sometimes it feels that all I say is 'no'. I know I say it more often than I should. I say it rather frequently these days, actually.
No, we cannot do the slip 'n slide right now.
No, you cannot have chocolate chips for breakfast.
No, you cannot have pickles either.
No, you cannot play with play doh right now.
No, we can't go to the Splash Pad. Or the Park. Or Sally's house.
No, you can't watch that on tv.
No, you can't play on my phone.
No, we can't buy that cereal.
No, you can't have a new toy.
No, you cannot play Super Mario right now.
No, you can't stay up late.
No, we can't look at your party stuff on the computer (she likes to see her Pinterest board).
No, we can't make a craft right now.
No, you can't have a popsicle.
No, we can't do that.
No, you can't do this.
And then my personal nemesis...
No, you may not paint right now.
Sometimes the reason is valid - like chocolate chips for breakfast. Few are those who would argue this one. Or the request is asked while in the middle of cooking dinner and it is physically impossible to do the requested activity without me. But most of the time, if I'm well and truly honest, there is no good reason to say 'no'.
The real root of the 'no' answer is my own selfishness and laziness.
These denied requests are almost always activity based. Because it will take a huge effort to prepare the activity, then require immense supervision (which doesn't allow me to multitask, which is counter to my type-A overachiever personality) for an extended period of time, and lastly (my biggest de-motivator) once it is all over, leaves me with additional mess to clean up..... nearly always my default answer has been "no".
I am fairly certain I read the story of Legos in the bathtub in the book_Professionalizing Motherhood_ by Jill Savage. . I read it years ago before the Lady was born and when Little Buddy was very, very tiny and no where near playing with Legos. Yet, the story struck quite a chord in me. Her children had asked to play with legos in the bathtub. The instinct reaction was to say "no!", because that is quite an absurd request, PLUS then mom has to clean up the additional mess. But Savage challenged us to say "yes" more.... when the request was one that didn't have negative consequences (like chocolate chips for breakfast)... and required more of me to make it happen... to answer "yes" more. Not necessarily every time. But more often. I planned to remember this, as my children grew. Remember to let them do the creative things they dreamt up,even when it inconvenienced me.
Fast forward a few years and I've forgotten. It is so tempting to become caught up in my whirlwind of achievement. It is so easy to try to minimize the damage control. I am weary of cleaning up messes! I am weary of cleaning up the very same messes - over and over and over again. Perhaps it is the engineer part of me that screams on the inside how crazy it is to add more mess to the ordinary, to keep repeating the same activities and never, ever, see progress.
When they ask, my mind is yelling inside of me
"I don't want to do 'that' " (selfish).
"I don't want to take time away from what _I_ need to get done" (selfish).
"I don't want to have to set it all up and prepare" (lazy).
"I don't want to be tied down to this activity for x hours" (selfish).
"I don't want to have to clean it all up" (lazy).
"I don't want to experience the ramifications of adjusting what I had intended to do that day, because the time constraints have changed"(selfish).
I don't want to raise self-centered children. I'm not suggesting we become slaves to their whims or that they get to do everything they ask as soon as they ask it. I'm just reminding myself that sometimes I need to suck it up, as the mom. If the motivator behind my 'no' is "I don't want to mess with that today"... perhaps I should rethink my answer that time. Especially when my Quality Time child asks to spend TIME with me in an activity. She's giving me an opportunity to love her, and express my love to her in a way her little heart and mind understand.
I cannot let that pass us by.
Yesterday, she asked to paint in the morning. I didn't want to mess with it. She loves to paint. I mean, loooooooves it. But there is all the prep work, watching her while she does it so paint doesn't get where it shouldn't, and then the dreaded clean up. Man, I cannot explain it, but I detest cleaning up from painting!!! I love to paint, myself, and I love to craft. I have anxiously awaited the days when we could do these things together. But the reality is that I nearly always avoid it, because it feels like it will be such a hassle. Yesterday I used my classic deflection technique. "Oooooh! that is a great idea! We'll do that after lunch." They will often forget, and I didn't have to say 'no'. Ridiculous method of guilt avoidance.
Around four in the afternoon, she remembered.
Guilt motivated me to let her. That's why I said yes. Not because it is something a four year old should get to do occasionally. Not because she loves to paint. Not because I wanted her to have fun and foster her creativity and artistic side. I said yes because I felt guilty. Guilty for trying to deflect her. Guilty for hardly ever letting her do these activities. Guilty for not giving her the time and attention she deserves. That's a horrible time to start craft projects. I need to be preparing for dinner, not embarking on a long drawn out process that is very labor intensive for me. But yesterday guilt won out and I started setting up for painting.
She was sooooo excited. Soooo happy. She pulled out my paint box from the cabinet. She selected several colors that she wanted to use. She even pulled out the paintbrushes she liked to go with each color. She pulled out the palette thing to put the paint in. She even moved the stool she likes to use over to the easel for her to sit on. She didn't say so, but I know she was just trying to help - make it easier on me.
Already I've let her know she inconveniences me. She feels she is a burden to me.
I put paper on the easel, put the paint in the palette, and put her smock on. I got a wet paper towel and instructed her that if paint got ANYWHERE she was to wipe it up. I got a cup for her to place the paintbrushes while they rested. I let her begin and went back to the chair to finish whatever it was I was working on on the computer. A few minutes so later, I spun around in the chair to check on things and saw this:
I was just struck.
One of those pivotal moments in your parenting that I can feel even now, the day after. I can feel the sunlight streaming in the room. I can see her cute little body curled under her. I can see her perched on the stool, focused, intent, and creating. I can see her soaking in the beauty of this world and her little life that God has given her. I can smell the tang of acrylic paint.
I almost denied her this.
Because of my selfishness and laziness, I almost missed this. She almost missed this. It seriously felt magical in the room. My camera was right beside me on the desk, so I grabbed and stole a shot, just to preserve the memory. It has been quite a while, truthfully, since I've shot my children with my camera, especially for something like this. I feel so behind in my to do list, so behind on commitments... and when I'm behind, I don't shoot. That takes time and I just don't have it these days, or so it feels. I sat the camera back down and started to go back to work. But I couldn't deny the magic of the moment there in the office. I picked the camera back up and shot a few more. Then I stood up and shot some more. I downloaded the images off the card. But she was still painting. And I was still mesmerized with her. So I put the card back in the camera, and shot some more. It felt so wonderful to just shoot to document a moment again. I think I lost a little of that with the workshop earlier in the summer. I sat the camera back down, went back to the computer and opened up a new window to start this blog.
"Mama, I want you to take pitchurs of me again."
Of course I knew she realized I was taking pictures of her. But I didn't realize she enjoyed it. She relished it. It communicated something to her. You better believe I picked up that camera and continued to shoot.
In _Captivating_ by John and Stasi Eldredge , the authors speak of how every little girl twirls. She twirls for her father, and others, so as to ask "Am I lovely? Am I beautiful? Am I worth loving? Do you see me? Do you want to see me? Do I captivate you?" Those questions will haunt her, even as she grows into a woman. I thanked God for bringing that book into my life for a million reasons, but one of which was for this very point. I knew when I had a daughter I wouldn't blow off her twirling. I wouldn't gloss over it. It is easy to smile and nod and continue on. But I decided I would stop and admire her and let her know she IS lovely. She IS beautiful. She IS worthy. She DOES captivate me. I want to see her.
When she said to me yesterday "Mama, I want you to take pitchurs of me again", for the second time that afternoon I was stuck.
She was twirling for me.
While the Little Lady certainly does twirl on occasion and does enjoy the color pink, I wouldn't say she's a super girly-girl. If she does twirl, I do stop and admire her and verbally affirm her. But yesterday I realized she was twirling. She was twirling for me, with her paintbrush.
She was reveling in her mama taking the time to take her picture.
Her mama with her million demands was taking time aside to take her picture. For that moment, she felt my top priority. I was telling her with my actions with my camera that she was lovely. She is beautiful. She is worth loving. I see her. I want to see her. I am utterly captivated by her. I enjoy her. Her mama was delighting in her.
Even beyond the difference it made in her was the difference it made in me. I enjoyed it. It wasn't a burden (though I still hated cleaning the brushes and the palette). I loved shooting it with my camera. It made me happy to do this with her. All of the anticipatory annoyances.... weren't there. It was a wonderful thing and I'm so glad I pushed aside my instinct to say no.
What a day yesterday was. I challenge myself and I challenge you, my reader, to say yes more.
Let them do the things that make your life harder. Communicate to them that they are worth your time, your effort, and your love. May I continue to remember this as we move forward.