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I Stopped Saying 'No' All the Time and What Happened Next Changed Everything

Photograph by Twenty20

I’ve always somewhat prided myself as being a “no mom.” The mom who lays down the law. The mom whose kids know without even asking that there's no chance in hell that they are going to get that Sticky Bun Sugar Crunch cereal. The mom who shuts it down before it even starts.

I wasn’t about to raise kids to beg in the grocery store or ask over and over for the same damn toy. I thought that being a “no mom” made me tough and no nonsense. Sometimes I even found myself saying “No!” before they finished asking the question.

One weekend, when I was in a particularly good mood, I decided to let the kids pick out a treat. I guided them toward a carton of that really good, full-fat chocolate milk that we never get. In truth, I was just in the mood for a treat, but got full cool-mom points for it. The kids were excited and I had that good feeling that only happy kids and chocolate milk can bring.

As we were driving out of the parking lot my son asked if we could drive up and down the rows of cars to see if we could find any out-of-state license plates (his new obsession). Immediately I felt the word “no” coming out of my mouth. Then I thought better of it. Why not? My son wants to do this fast, free and moderately academic activity with me and I want to say “no”? What is wrong with me? Where do I need to be that can’t wait an extra five minutes?

I wish that I had realized earlier how easy it is to make them happy.

I started weaving my car up and down the rows. We spotted a Michigan, two Oregons and the rare Georgia plate. He wrote them down and was ecstatic. And it took us no time. No time to say “yes” instead of “no.” No time to make my child’s day.

“This is easy,” I thought to myself.

On the way home we passed the school playground that's near our house and my kiddo asked, like always, if we could stop to play. Normally I would say “no” or, at best, “maybe later if we have time.” But instead of my default, I silently turned the car into the school parking lot, pulled into a spot and got out. Moderately shocked, he followed and waited while I got my daughter out of her seat. “How long can we stay?” he asked and for once I didn’t give a time limit.

We just played. We just had fun. Fun we would not have had if I’d said “no,” like usual.

I wish I could say that saying "yes" to my kids requests was not such a rarity for me. I wish that I had not conditioned them to expect a “no” to all questions. I wish that I had realized earlier how easy it is to make them happy.

It’s true that my answer to sugary cereal and obnoxious toy requests will continue to be “no,” but if I have the power and the privilege to occasionally make my children’s day with a simple “yes,” I plan to take it.

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