Do You Tell Your Mom No?
by Christie Perkins
“Do you tell your Mom no?” I squared up to my preschool child. His beautiful eyes and sweet smile weren’t getting him out of this one. No way.
Obviously he didn’t get it.
I don’t even remember the misbehavior now but I was trying to nip the sassy fast. He stood still watching me with the whites of my eyes widening and the tip of my finger aimed at his nose. I’m not really sure what pointing does but it seems to be a 4 star travel agent of discipline: it’s the quick, fast, cheaper method.
One more time. I pronounced the words more slowly. I guess, technically, I should have used the word “should” instead of “do,” but this technique comes at a higher leveled thinking.
Um, yeah. That’s it.
“Do you tell your mom no?” I asked.
“Ummm…” he buzzed for a few hum drummed seconds then confidently spat out, “Yes.” He was certain.
Ok. This was not working. Do I need to rephrase the question? Maybe he’s just being honest since he really did just tell me no. I was trying to get him to see it from my angle. I’ll try one more time. So with the exact same phrase I started out again, but much slower this time.
Was I mumbling?
“Do you tell…”
I was interrupted from the pre teen wise guy watching our show. He was chuckling. “Mom.”
I’m disciplining here.
I hear you. I’m just ignoring you for a minute. Hold on kid.
“Do you tell your Mom no?” I asked the same question inflecting my voice to put a different spin on the meaning. (Psh! Like a 4 year old can figure that out.) Then finally the universe came to a complete halt as I hear the wise guy finish his sentence. “He’s afraid to tell you no.”
Ding. It all came sinking into my thinking. It stopped me in one of those barely audible duh-moment chuckles. You know the laugh: it come out in an abrupt nostril puff.
Ah, yes. I was asking a trick question and didn’t even realize it.
“Do you tell your mom no?” Think about it. If he answers yes he’s in trouble for indicating that he’s going to tell me no. And if he tells me no he’s in double duty trouble for saying the word “no.”
Yes was safer.
Learning to Say Yes or No.
Life is a little tricky. We don’t always master the timing on when to say yes… or no.
As a kid you never told your parents no… well, never is a bit of a stretch but you learned quickly not to let it slip. No way. I suppose it’s the way to teach obedience to a child. But then you get older and you learn to say no to certain things. Now, it becomes a priority lesson.
Yet, somewhere on our road the yes’s and no’s go flailing all the wrong ways. We say “yes, yes, yes,” until we are stressed, stressed, stressed. Then, something bops us on the head and we realize life doesn’t need to be faced with the dreaded puppet syndrome: dancing at the demands of everyone else.
We don’t have to say yes to everything. We can say no… but, eek! What’s going to happen if I say no? Our childhood learning curve strikes out at us. We can’t help it it’s engrained into our brains. We want to say yes but we don’t.
So, we try out a few no’s and it feels great. We are learning our limits. We feel empowered by our ability to choose. Then suddenly saying no is so easy that we never say yes. We get selfish and stagnant because we are only telling ourselves yes and everyone else no.
It’s a vicious cycle.
And life ends up being one great big maze of wrong turns, right turns, and surprise endings. You find yourself saying yes to all feats in all the same week? Eek! Then “no” stamps itself on all the things you really should have said yes to.
What to do?
I don’t know. You’re just going to have to figure it out. (I know, brilliant insight.) We are constantly walking the balance beam of yes and no and if we get too heavy on either side we fall. It’s not a crash and burn fall. No, most likely not at all. It’s just a fall in life satisfaction. Where are you standing?
Don’t say yes because it’s safer. And don’t say no because it’s easier.
And one day when you’re asked a question such as “Do you tell your Mom no?” you can look them squarely in the eye and answer with confidence, “Well, that depends.”
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