“Mommy, Mommy can I paint today?”
My four-year-old hopped into my bed, crashed into my overly pregnant belly, and flopped down beside me with her face only one inch from mine.
“Mommy, Mommy, please, please can I paint, right now?” she asked again.
One of my least favourite parts of being a parent is that children don’t care if you’re not a morning person. I most definitely am not a morning person, but my kids still wake me up with a jolt every morning with a barrage of questions and demands.
I rolled out of bed, still groggy, and told my daughter that I needed to eat before anything else could happen.
She’d been asking to paint for an entire week, and because I hate how messy paint is, I had found an excuse each time to avoid the activity. Now, it was the morning, my least favourite time of day, and I was stuck with either dealing with an epic meltdown, or….
I could just let her paint.
A light bulb went off in my head, and I realized I could avoid the meltdown by simply saying, “Yes, you can paint, right now you can paint!”
After I finished my breakfast, my daughters excitedly sat at the table as I got their paint things ready, and they spent a somewhat peaceful thirty minutes painting at the table.
I sipped my coffee and watched as they painted, realizing that it really wasn’t such a big deal to say "yes" to paint.
The next morning we woke up to a winter wonderland, and freezing cold weather too chilly for a fun romp in the snow. I thought about how successful it had been when I had simply said “yes” the day before, and decided to push the envelope further.
The girls bounded into the kitchen, and let out a loud shout of joy when they saw that I had gone outside and scooped up some fresh snow into two plastic bins for them. They grabbed some toys and began making a wintery mess on my kitchen table, and I stood by, smiling, hot coffee in hand.
“Mommy, Mommy, can we put food colouring in our snow?” Penny asked.
I really didn’t want to deal with the mess of food colouring and snow, in my kitchen, but I remembered that I was trying to say “yes” a little more.
The girls spent an hour mixing green food colouring into their snow, and I had to admit the vibrant green that the snow turned was delightful to watch.
Over the last week I have noticed the power struggle diminish between my daughter and I, as I say “yes” a little more to fun activities that might not be easy for me, but make happy memories for the entire family. Now, when I say “no”, I find it’s a little less hard for my children to accept.
This week my kids have had baths in the middle of the day (with food colouring), popcorn for snack, and I’ve let them help me with chores like washing dishes, despite the fact that it’s much messier and takes much longer.
I don’t want my children to remember their childhood as the years their mother constantly said “no” to anything remotely fun. I don’t want my kids to remember their mom as the neat freak who despised messy crafts and extra effort. I’d much rather have my linoleum floors stained with drips of food colouring and my dishes half-washed by a two-year-old, if that means a joyful home where memories are made.
“I have enjoyed life a lot more by saying yes than by saying no.” - Richard Branson