I consider myself a “yes mom.” There is so much I already had to say no to. I have limited money and we live in an incredibly wealthy part of the world. We do not, and will not, ever have a plane. I wasn’t able to give my kids the house full of siblings I wanted. And they aren’t growing up with both of their parents in the same house.
But beyond those limitations I always try to say yes. If a request is too outlandish, too expensive, or too crazy, is there a way we can turn that no into a yes? If there’s something that they show an interest in, how extremely can we lean into that yes? This is how we wind up with DJ stations and sewing stations in my house. “Who do I know who builds animatronics?”
It’s an extreme example, but one of the reasons we bought a second home in Palm Springs is because it was the first place Eli ever wore dresses outside, a place where he feels freer than anywhere else.
Kids are so much fun because they are all potential and interest and ideas and imagination. Grabbing those things and running with them is the best part of being their mom.
But this is a world of NO right now. Even being told they can’t get a haircut is something, frankly, that grown a** adults are having a hard time hearing “no” on. There is so much I have to keep saying no to and I hate it.
After a few weeks of wrestling with that, I’ve focused on finding the yeses. Especially the yeses that they wouldn’t normally get. Swapping out the “of course we can take BART as far as it goes today!” or “Yes! We can go to the zoo again!” for “Yes, you can play Nintendo everyday” or “YES! We can drive the cats and family to Palm Springs for spring break because our plans got ruined, and YES! we can do a family night swim every night before bed.”
“Yes, we can turn the living room into a stuffed animal hospital and leave it up for weeks on end!” Or “YES! We can do a mommy sleep over on the hard floor of your room with every blanket and pillow in the house? And “YES!!! We can stay up until 10pm every single night and sleep in until just before your Zoom call, because GOD KNOWS there is something that should feel FUN about this time.”
Maybe it can’t be a world of “yes” but maybe it can be a “No, but…” situation.
Last weekend, my kids were fighting with each other. The bickering is definitely edging up the longer we’re in this situation, and there’s only so many times I can point out that their friends who don’t have a sibling to bicker with have it so much worse. I get it. Space is the ultimate luxury good if you live with people right now.
After a cacophony of escalation, Evie barged in my room one morning, saying, “I just have one question. True or false: Is Eli the boss of me?”
A brilliant way of positioning whatever it was the fight was over. Eli had demanded that she go get him some scissors, and she didn’t appreciate how he was talking to her. “OK, I get that, Evie,” I said. “But I have a question for you. If he’d asked nicely, would you have done it?” She clammed up. “I was comfortable!” she finally bleated out.
“Ok, so it wasn’t just how he asked, you just didn’t want to do it.”
I pulled both of them in bed with me and told them about “yes moms” and “no moms” and there was no debate that I’m the yes-iest of yes moms alive. I told them that for the foreseeable future the three of us are each other’s entire world of people. Billions of people, and the hundreds we normally interact with everyday had shrunk to three. And that anything we put into this tiny little world of ours had to be that much more thoughtful as a result. Because it was going to ricochet around building strength and energy faster and more aggressively in our little world. If we put out crankiness, crankiness was all we’d have.
Since they enthusiastically agreed that they loved having a “yes mom,” I encouraged them to be “yes siblings.”
“Evie, I know you don’t want to get up and get the scissors, but I don’t really like getting up and getting everything you guys want all the time either,” I said. “Maybe if he asks nicely, you could fight the ‘I don’t have to do that and I’m comfortable,’ with a yes.”
“Eli, I know you don’t like it when Evie controls the entire Mousey narrative. But maybe, you just let her one day, for the whole day. Maybe you just say yes, not because you have to, but because you like when people say yes to you and it doesn’t really cost you anything.”
Look for times you can say yes. There is always a yes you can give someone you love.
Today’s new questions on Chairman Mom: