“No.” I said it without thinking.

“Why? Dad, I really want to.” There was a touch of whine to her plea that jammed my heels to the bedrock.

“Please, don’t ask again honey, I said no, that swing is too small for you.” I replied a bit firm for the occasion, which elicited a turn of the head, sniffle, and cry. I kept pushing Haze in her swing, while planning my next move with Mae. Leave her alone? Go over to her and explain why that swing isn’t age appropriate? Again. Or, gasp, admit that perhaps I didn’t even think about saying yes, put all five years of her giggling body into the bucket swing, awkwardly push her, and maybe, just maybe, laugh at her bent limbs and squished bottom.

Why couldn’t she sit in the bucket swing? Why did I shoot a “no” without thinking? I don’t have a good reason, or answer. I get caught saying “no” to our girls when they form a request that doesn’t fit into the parameters of the plans I have or the vision I hold. I, for whatever reason, think that by saying ”no” to a certain percentage of their requests (72%), no matter how insignificant the inquiry, I will teach them that they don’t always get what they want, and they will come to appreciate what they have. Yes, a bit of a hard bench. I am learning that saying “no” too often is potentially as, or more, negative for them as/than saying “yes” all of the time.

It was early in our girls lives that my wife and I decided we were going to stay strong if we say “no” to the girls, follow through if we make a promise of yes, and every so often let them “talk us into” something that we originally weren’t going to do or let them have. Sounds like a good plan right? Well, I’m afraid that in the midst of busier schedules, them, and us, aging, shorter attention spans, and the need to feel control in certain situations, I have started firing “no’s” with little thought to what I am saying “no” to.

“Can I have a popsicle?” “No.” “Go outside?” “No.” “Say hi to my friend?” “No.” “Pass the beans?” “No.” A bit of a dramatization, but it is creeping in more and more. I need to be careful that I don’t fall too deeply into this pattern, or I’ll become stiff, stuffy, and not the guy to come to for a yes – or anything.

After stopping, looking at the world from her eyes, and realizing the ridiculousness of needing to control every situation, I picked her up, plopped her in, and it was every bit as delightful as it should have been to start with, then, she wanted a push, the push wasn’t done right, she didn’t want me to push Haze at the same time, she wanted an underdog, and fussed when I explained that she may go flying out if I tried to give her one in the teeny-tiny bucket swing. Where on earth did she acquire the need to control a situation?

It goes without saying that we’d do anything for our children, we want them to be happy, thrive, and have a childhood filled with excitement, accountability, understanding, appreciation, and love. There are times we have to say “no”, but balanced with the right amount of “yeses”, I think they’ll get that we’re listening. And, I’ll try to stay away from the “maybes”, if they stay away from the “sures”.

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