When we say yes to our children when we can, we open up increased opportunities for creativity, independence, and building self esteem. Sometimes I say yes to my children's requests, and it feels fine. Sometimes, I say yes but then feel stressed - and I realise that perhaps I shouldn't have agreed to the request that time. Often, I say no, and then with a moment's distance, realise that it can be a yes after all. When they ask to do something, I am learning to ask myself: why not - can I handle this right now? And: what are the consequences - what is the worst that can happen?
And then, after my yes, I'm learning to watch and listen, not do: process not product. It's hard but I'm making progress. I still have to mutter to myself phrases like 'It doesn't matter' and 'This is where the learning is'. For some of you, staying quiet will be easy. Others of you are like me - and will know that this stance is hard won.
A home education afternoon on George and the Dragon is pending - we are charged with bringing green-coloured boxes.
I bring flattened boxes for them to rebuild, and then wait to see what they'll do. I'm asked for thick tape, but otherwise they get on independently. They use (a lot) more tape than really needed, and it takes a while. I stay quiet.
We head outside to paint, and I provide a few basic materials - they hunt out the rest. It's getting harder for me now - one wants to squirt the only bottle of green paint directly onto his box. I feel myself getting jumpy - it's all we have, what if we run out, what if it goes everywhere…?
I say no now - no, not this time, we'll put it in the tray for everyone to use. It's too much for me right now. And that's ok too - I'm a work in progress.
I wander off, but my mind keeps coming back to it. I ponder why I felt I had to say no - and he quickly loses interest in the boundaries of the activity as it stands. It occurs to me that if we had friends round, there's a good chance I would have said yes - because I try hard to be the best I can be then, to be open and flexible and welcoming. But I always want that for my children too. Sigh. I know why I can't do that all the time - I don't have the resources to keep on top of all of their fantastical requests. And that's ok, because it has to be.
But right now I'm thinking - why not? Perhaps I could say yes to it on this occasion, what harm will it do…?
He squeezes the paint, oozing it thickly onto his creation. He's happy. And then he starts to see the possibilities - can he please paint the garden chair? For some reason (why?), I'm not ok with this - I offer alternatives: the house walls, the patio… the shed! Yes! Immediately they all flock to it and get painting, brim-full with their creative joy.
I'm glad I said yes. But it's still not comfortable - I've got a long way to go. And that's ok.
It's not easy for our children growing up in this culture - it can be hugely challenging for them to express themselves with all of our rules and boundaries, which are needed because of the way we live. Our whole way of being in our society is not child friendly. So, in our family, we are slowly learning to say yes more, and to simplify life so that we can do this, and life feels happier and freer because of it. Whatever choices we each make in our parenting, we are all doing our best to get creativity, freedom, and practicalities woven into our lives in a way that works for each of us. Starting to be more intentional about our choices, our rules, has helped us to give some of the freedom back to our children, and they (and we) are reaping the benefits. Perhaps there's something you can consider saying 'yes' to today?