Want me to sell 400 pounds of cookie dough for a football fundraiser? Hand paint 29 bunnies for the class Easter party? Perform that clogging solo when the actual dancer caught the flu? Call me, send an email, pass around a clipboard and I’m your girl.
I’m not sure where it comes from, but I’m really into people pleasing. That is, except when it comes to my family, to the five most important people in my life. Then I’m a rock star at saying “no.”
Sometimes, this ability can be a good thing.
To my children: No, you can’t start a Nigerian email scam or go to school without pants.
To my husband: No, you can’t put a waterslide in our basement or pitch TLC a reality show about our wacky, dysfunctional family.
But other times I say no automatically, reflexively, without pausing to think things through. No, you can’t have a candy bar at the store. No, I can’t read you a story because I’m working. No, you can’t eat one of those cookies because I have to make six dozen to bring to a church function. And I already burned the first two batches, so we are going to need Every. Single. One.
There’s something about all this nay-saying that’s just not right.
In my last neighborhood, one of my son’s friends told me her mom “almost always says yes.” I thought that was about the best compliment you could give someone. True, that cute family had a pet owl and a 7-year-old with pink hair, but how great would it be for kids to really feel like Mom was on their side?
Not that we’ll be opening an aviary anytime soon, but this year I’m resolving to say yes to my kids more. No matter how many times they ask a question, I’m going to pause and think before answering. Is this an instance where I can say yes? What would happen if my 7-year-old turned his bunk bed into a fort (read: dumped the linen closet) or I bought my 3-year-old those light-up Dora the Explorer shoes she’s been begging for?
My house would be messy, and we’d own some kitschy shoes. So exactly nothing would have changed.
And here’s the thing: Saying “yes” to my kids might require saying “no” in other areas of life. It might mean taking on less at work, at school, at church. It’s taken me almost four decades to realize this, but it’s simply impossible to do it all.
I personally blame Pinterest and Sheryl Sandberg, but it seems as though as parents we’re all balancing more and more. Logging more hours at work, volunteering on more committees at school, signing our kids up for every activity under the sun.
But, at the end of the day, the “extras” aren’t worth it if it means less time to read to and play with your kids. They aren’t worth it if you’re so emotionally and physically burned out that come bed time you’re metaphorically tossing your kids in bed like hot potatoes.
So maybe I won’t be the room mom in my kid’s classrooms next year. Maybe I won’t even volunteer to send in treats! These things might have to wait until my little ones get a bit older. And even if I can’t do it then, will it really matter all that much in the long run?
In a word, no.