As the mother of two children under the age of five, there are a lot of times that I find myself saying, “No.” “No, you may not have ice cream for breakfast.” “No, you may not lick the dishwasher.” “No, you may not bring that earthworm/dead mouse/giant tree branch into the house.” “No, you may not run around the neighborhood naked.” “No, you may not have a third popsicle.” “No, you may not go to the grocery store wearing only Perry the Platypus underpants and a plastic crown.” And despite the fact that I know I am saying “no” for their own good, sometimes I feel like I’m always the bad guy, always putting the kibosh on my kids’ fun.
So I decided that every time I start to say “no,” I’m going to stop and think about whether I really, truly need to say it. When the question is, “Can I stick a fork into this electrical outlet?”, the answer obviously needs to be “no.” But when the question is, “Can I have a popsicle for supper?”, or “Can I wear my tutu to church?”, or “Can we go outside and stomp in the puddles while it’s raining?”, sometimes the answer can be “YES!” When the issue is not danger, but rather my own convenience or my own comfort, sometimes the answer needs to be “Yes.”
Last week, my daughter wanted to paint in the kitchen. Being 2-1/2, her painting tends to cover not only the paper, but also the easel, the floor, the sink, her clothes, herself, and me. I knew we needed to go pick up her brother from preschool in an hour, so I initially said, “No.” But then I thought about it, and realized that no-one would care if I brought her to school with paint streaks covering her arms and her face. No-one would care (or even know) if I left the kitchen floor covered in dried paint until I got a chance to scrub it off later in the day. So I took a deep breath and said, “Yes.” I stripped off all her clothes except her diaper, gave her a handful of paint brushes and an entire jar of purple paint, and let her loose. She started off with a few tentative brushstrokes on the paper, but was soon slathering her palms with globs of paint and announcing, “Pawprint!” while slapping her hand onto the paper, flinging bits of paint across the room and all over her face and mine. She dunked her hand into the cup of water, happily watching it slosh over. She noticed the drips of paint on the floor and touched them with her toes, at first tentatively, and then sliding them into long colored streaks with great glee.
It looked something like this:
Actually, this was only the midpoint. But the time she was done, her face was covered in purple war paint, there were purple streaks in her hair, her legs were coated from thighs to toes, the cup of water had been knocked to the floor, and we’d even added a bit of pink and yellow paint for contrast. The kitchen floor looked like a demented rainbow.
And we were both grinning and laughing.
She announced she was done 15 minutes before we had to leave, so I tossed her in the bathtub, sprayed her off with the showerhead (which made us both grin and giggle even more), and got rid of most of the paint. I put her in fresh clothes and we hopped in the car, happier and more relaxed than either of us had been in a long time.
It’s not always easy, you’re often tempted not to do it, but sometimes, the best thing to do is to just say, “YES!” Because although “yes” rhymes with “mess,” it also rhymes with “de-stress” and “success”!