I decided to conduct an experiment with my oldest today. I had this thought while the boys were napping… what if I didn’t say “no” when they wake up… what if I agreed to all the requests made of me for the entire evening? What if, rather than “not now, buddy” or “in a second” or “maybe later” or “I don’t feel like it,” I just said “yes.”
If I haven’t said it lately, parenting can be draining. It requires a lot of energy and patience and selflessness. And so when you’re already at your wits end just trying to keep the peace, keep them fed and keep the house picked up, anything extra can be too much. Especially when you have one that’s relentless. Mommy, can we do this? Mommy, can we do that? Over and over and over again. The easy answer is no. Sometimes there’s a good reason and sometimes I’m just lazy (or selfish) and just don’t feel like it. But each answer of no comes with a tinge of guilt. Because, even when I can’t muster the energy to deal with it, I recognize that his requests are a cry for my attention. He just wants me… to spend time with him… to pay attention to him… to put him above all the other things I call important. When I really thought about it today, it made me want to cry.
So I figured, what the heck. When he wakes up, I’m just gonna say “yes”. I’m going to get over my nightly routine and just live in the moment. Tonight, there will be nothing more important than him.
When he awoke, he called down to me. I went up stairs, walked into his room and he was all smiles. I told him I was soooo happy to see him and we hugged. Then he asked, “you want to play up in my room with me?” …. “Yes.” And so we sat at his art table and colored. “Can you get my (washable) markers and play them with me?” “Yes.” And so I went down stairs, got the markers (and grabbed my camera, cause that’s what I do) and we colored some more. “Can I take pictures with your camera?” Gulp. “Yes.” And I handed him my camera (with specific instruction on how to handle it and how careful he must be). He took photo after photo and was so proud of what he captured. “Will you play tractors with me?” “Yes.” “Will you play outside with me?” “Yes.” “Can we watch a movie together?” “Yes.” “Will you read me a book?” “Yes.” “Will you read me another book?” “Yes.” My yeses went beyond the things he wanted me to do. I said yes to things that would cause a mess, get on my nerves and were just plain unnecessary (Me: “Do you want milk or water for bed?” Brogan: “Both” Me: “Sure”).
Funny thing about saying yes all night… I went into it thinking that doing all of this would take up the whole evening, but it didn’t. Turns out, I spend almost as much time saying no, and then dealing with the pleadings or hissy fits that follow my no, as I did when I said yes and engaged with him. Another interesting by-product… he was really well- behaved. I was doing so much giving of positive attention, that he didn’t have to do anything that drew out the negative attention. I had filled his love cup so much all night that when I needed something of him, he was willing to give too. I saw it in the way he shared with Beckett, the way he cooled down after getting angry. And so when I had to stop playing with him because it was time to cook dinner, it was no big deal. When it was time for him to take a shower… no big deal. And when it was time to go to bed, no big deal.
I’d be lying if I said I was committing myself to be a 100% “Yes Mom.” I’m not. I know myself well enough to know that I can’t sustain it. Grandparents can because they do it in small doses; I can’t on a daily basis. (And by the way, it totally clicked to me tonight why kids act better for the grandparents – because they say yes!!) But what I will do is say yes more often. I’ll try to remember that what he really wants (and needs) is me and my attention. I’ll keep in mind that it wouldn’t kill me to snap out of my routine and just have fun with my kids. I will commit myself to try harder. After all, he is only young once… and one day, in the not too distant future, I’ll be wishing he wanted to spend time with me.