“Mommy, can I help you?”
It was a simple enough request, very thoughtful and politely delivered, too. And it was Yes Day, my day to meet Momalom’s challenge. I worked hard all morning, thinking of how I could rephrase things positively, whether I needed to say “no” as quickly as I often did.
By this point, I was honestly worn out.
“No,” I said. And I meant it. For one, it was M’s rest time, and the rule is that he needs to take some alone time instead of helping me. For another, I was using a less-than-child-appropriate cleaner on our shower. You know, the shower I hadn’t managed to clean since we moved in? That one. It needed as heavy duty as I had. And beyond that, it’s a small wet shower, I’m hot and sweaty and tired, and I just want to finish as quickly as possible so I can get to the fifty other things I need to do before M and I have our usual time together.
He walked away dejected. I was dejected myself. Yes Day sounded so fun. But the truth is, the answer isn’t always “yes.” It became work, all that redirecting and giving in and wiggling around situations where the answer really is, for good reason, “no.” I’m not saying that I shouldn’t be more positive. I get that I often use “no” because I don’t want to deal with the “yes,” that it’s a quick answer that I use too liberally. But sometimes, the answer is “no.” And the more I wiggle that around, the more wiggly I seem. And the more wiggly I seem, the more the kids try to make me wiggle, like I’m a loose brick they can somehow dislodge.
I said “no,” and I meant “no.” The answer was reasonable; I didn’t need to spend time arguing otherwise. But I turned that time and energy toward M’s return. At that point, I was nearly done with the shower, and it was getting close to the end of nap time. I gave him little helpful duties to get me finished and then told him we could work on the other shower together. Yes, he could help. It might not have gotten the shower clean–I put that energy into smiling, accepting, enjoying even as he was using bath towels to wipe the floor and dripping water where I just mopped and squeegeeing every possible surface–because there had been a “no” and now there could be a “yes.” We eventually got the shower clean, the floor wiped up, and the towels in the wash. And we did something together, something different, before settling down to doing something usual. Yes Day was overwhelming. It just wasn’t reasonable for me to expect myself to green-light everything, or feel guilty when I couldn’t. But a “yes” moment? I can definitely spend my days making more of those.