Mother-in Law Advice: Just Say Yes


I have written a number of times about the power of saying “No.” Today, I want to say something about saying “Yes.”

If you are are a parent like me, you say “no” to a lot. No to chocolate at bedtime. No to hitting your sister. No to wearing flip-flops for bike-riding. That’s as it should be. Parents need to set limits and keep their kids healthy and safe. The problem is that “no” can become a reflex. If I’m not careful, I catch myself saying “no” to things for no reason and without even thinking. Or saying “no” because I am in auto-pilot-hurry-mode, in which I am so used to rushing around with a totally jammed schedule that I act as if we are in a hurry even when we are not. Habitually maximizing efficiency at the expense of my values — fun, family, connection — pointless!

My mother-in-law, Roianne, gave me some good advice: say yes to your children as much as possible. Wise words indeed.

Today, as Graham (nearly 4) and I were walking to his preschool in Glen Canyon Park, he asked if we could walk a less direct way to school from our usual route. “No” was on my tongue, but I thought, Why not? What’s our hurry? Today was the one day I didn’t have to dash immediately from drop-off to a client call. “Sure,” I said, and we went out of our way so that we could watch the tractor-mower cutting the grass. We stood at the edge of the ballfield watching, smelling the new-mown grass, waving at the driver. And when he finished and the two arms of the mower folded up like a Transformer, we were delighted.

So the next time your kid (or your partner) suggests something unexpected, time-consuming, inefficient, or unconventional that is not unsafe or unkind (a bath in the afternoon, a detour down an unknown street, a messy activity, whatever), ask yourself why not, and just say YES!

The days are long, the years are short. (Check out this short film by Gretchen Rubin, and make sure you have your hankie handy.)