Did I just tell my kid ‘no.’? Yep. And it felt good. I want you to feel good too! Do you have what it takes?
Okay, all you overscheduled and tired parents. Like a love letter, I wrote this just for you. I am a single parent with eight children. As my friends from college say to me, “Whenever I feel down I just think of you.” Best friends like kids always tell the truth. I am your best parenting friend and this is the truth.
During my second year of med school, we had a lecture from an ophthalmologist. He had us repeat over and over through the hour, “I will not prescribe ocular steroids. I will not prescribe ocular steroids.” He went on to say, “I do not care if you take nothing away from my talk except this, ‘I will not prescribe ocular steroids.’ Only an eye doctor should prescribe this.” Again, “I will not prescribe ocular steroids.” And here I am, 22 years later. I do not recall anything from the lecture except his adage. “I will not prescribe ocular steroids.”
Whatever does this have to do with being an overtired and overscheduled parent, you ask. I would like you to repeat throughout the few minutes you spend reading this blog, “I will not always say ‘yes’ to my child.” Or conversely for the contrarians out there, “I will say ‘no’ more often to my child.” To-mā-to, to-mă-to, I don’t care. More no’s lead to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. After all, the Colonialist said no to the King of England and look at all the good that followed.
Last night I said ‘no’ to baseball practice. I had a twinge of guilt for not being able to schedule the 50th event to my day, but I knew that was my Catholic guilt at work. (You may substitute Jewish guilt if that works for you. See I am saying ‘yes’ to whatever kind of guilt you want to carry. It is yours after all.)
However, as I stepped back and looked at the busy day, the flow of life, the integrity of the family, preserving my sanity and being a role model to eight children, I was spot on. Adding in baseball practice was too much amid school pick up and drop off, Sports Club pick up, dance class, two doctor appointments, a full day of seeing patients, art class and a busy child abuse clinic. Not to mention I hadn’t even started dinner, homework, baths, lunch prep for the next day or washing school uniforms. A bed had to also be made since one of the kids peed in it the previous night. Conga and bongo lessons were starting that night too and I had a dinner party to attend.
I contacted the coach, explained the reasoning to the children and went about my evening with the usual and customary stress I handle daily. I had to trade baseball practice for my dinner party. You could say the dinner was my baseball practice and I had to practice being human and not a doormat or a robot or a stress monster. Baseball practice drop off and pick up would have transformed my usual peaceful and calm demeanor into a reality TV show-like character on ‘Survivor’ meets ‘Honey Boo-boo’ on ‘John and Kate Plus Eight.’ I knew my boundaries. The end result for the kids was a fun, pleasant and entertaining night while dad had a reprieve with good friends.
What happens if you don’t? Your kids will have fuzzy life boundaries. They may grow up expecting others to serve them since you did, or become people-pleasers and allow others to take advantage of them since a healthy ‘no’ wasn’t part of your family’s vernacular. You will age faster since you choose (yes, choose) to live an imbalanced life.
Now repeat after me, “I will not always say ‘yes’ to my child.” Oh, doesn’t that feel good?! You deserve it. And your kids deserve the peace and tranquility as well. Live your life as a whole or fall into a hole.
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