“Mom can I take these three tubs out and make a craft?” “No.” “Mom, can I bake cookies by myself?” “No.” “Mom, can I plan a lemonade stand?” “Not today.” “Mom can we set up the water slide?” “Does it have to be now?”
Sometimes “no” is so much easier. “No” is cleaner, quicker, easier, and doesn’t require as much effort as a “yes.” Saying “yes” is hard. It requires something of me, forces me to let a mess happen, give up my time, and put in some effort.
I recently discovered that I was always telling my kids “no”. The more I paid attention, the more I realized I never really had a good reason, either, other than ease for me. So I committed to saying “yes” more; to supporting my children’s ideas; to allowing the crazy messes; to encouraging their entrepreneurial spirits.
My daughter, Ellie, is 7. She is my mini me-in looks, personality, preferences, and her list-loving spirit. She has lists all over the house (like me, yet it drives me insane). A million notebooks and journals bear her name, ideas, recipes, plans, business ideas, and more. My first big “yes” challenge came: “Mom, I wrote down a recipe for chocolate chip muffins. Can I make them.” Gahhhh! “Uhhh…sure.”
I sat nearby in the kitchen while she got out all her ingredients. Flour, sugar, baking powder, chocolate chips, eggs, butter, etc. I watched as she portioned out jobs to her younger siblings, allowing them to scoop, pour, and mix. I listened as she explained to them how the sugar gets mixed in with the wet ingredients, even though it’s technically dry. And then, when they were all done, I watched her beaming eyes as the muffins came out of the oven. I listened as she made observations about how they looked (ahem…like rocks), and on how she could improve them next time (“I think I used too much flour”). I also witnessed her little sister trying to compliment her product, despite barely being able to swallow down the “muffin”.
I was proud of her, and she still talks about the time she got to make her own muffin recipe.
Then the lists for movie day plans kept popping up in her notebooks. “Sure, Ellie. Plan a movie day for this date, and we’ll make it happen.” “Really? For reals I can do it?” Yeah, I’m so good at saying “no” that she can’t believe it when I say “yes.” She planned a guest list, a reasonable menu (a variety of fruit with Italian Sodas to drink), made her own invitations, picked a movie, shopped, set up, cleaned up, and hosted her first movie party. She kicked butt. Really. And it was fun for me too. Why did I always say no?
Lastly, it was the persistent and nagging request for a bracelet stand outside our house (you know, in a neighborhood where there’s not much through traffic). So she made a bazillion rainbow loom bracelets and I actually let her make a stand outside the house. She didn’t sell any, but I was proud of her anyway. She did it. I was proud of me, too. I let her do it!
I challenge you to say “yes.” To let the messes happen. To give up some time to help set up a lemonade stand. To allow ingredients to be “wasted” though not really wasted, in the grand scheme of things. To let your children explore new ideas and concepts. To let them figure out how to do things, and then to reflect on how to make them better. To step back and allow them to figure out things on their own, without your oh so wonderful mom wisdom. To let them figure out who they are and who they want to be and what their capable of by allowing them to do some of the things they want to do, not just the things we find valuable.