I walked in to the guest room a few weeks ago to find Emma on her knees, on the floor, hunched over something. She was obviously working quietly and intently, and secretively. I stepped closer and she looked up.
In front of her on the floor was a whole battery of off-limits items from my craft stash–sewing scissors, expensive yarn, scraps of fabric, rubber stamp pads, good heavy papers and permanent markers.
I felt my blood boil. "EMMA!!! WHAT are you doing??! These are my things!"
"I had this idea.", she said with a defeated sigh.
I was still upset. This had been happening a lot lately. The sneaking off while I was occupied elsewhere in the house. The getting in to things that normally require supervision. Craft stuff. Food from the pantry. Gardening tools. Things that stay inside the house being dragged outside.
It was making me crazy. Didn't my children understand any boundaries? Didn't they realize they couldn't get into anything and everything, whenever they pleased?
I questioned her further, "Why didn't you just ask?"
"Because I knew you'd say no. You always say no."
And there it was. I was confronted with the truth. Or at least what felt like the truth to her.
Now obviously, I don't say no all the time. But sometimes, I think my pile of "no's" far outweighs my pile of "yes". In fact it could easily bury the pile of yes. Sometimes the no's come from exhaustion–the not wanting to make another mess, the not wanting to break open all the paints or get out the sewing machine, the not wanting to fill another sink with dishes, the not wanting to hike to the stream and carry home dirty toddlers and ten pounds of streambed in a metal bucket.
And sometimes, I catch myself saying no because I think that's what I'm supposed to say. It's what parents do. That somehow I'm teaching them some life skill–to wait, to be patient, that you don't always get your way. And then I find myself thinking, "Now wait. Why did I say no to that?"
And I also realized in some odd way, my barrage of 'no's' was driving Emma to deception. She had ideas and plans that were burning inside of her. Things she had to try. Experiments she had to concoct. Recipes she had to make. She needed to bring these ideas in her head to fruition. And sometimes, the supplies she had at her disposal–some watercolor paints, construction paper, a pair of tiny right-handed scissors, just wouldn't cut it. And more often than not, when she brought her plans before the queen of the house, she was shot down before she even got started.
You've heard me say it a hundred times before, this job of parenting is a continual learning process. And once again, I've learned a lesson. I'm not saying all my no's have magically become a yes–I'm not planning to let Emma float Elizabeth down the stream on an inner tube anytime soon. However, my no doesn't come as quickly these days.
I don't want her to give up on me. To think she has me figured out. To decide that I'm always a no. I want to say yes sometimes. More times. I want to surprise her. I want to follow through on a few of those crazy ideas and see just where that idea takes us. I want her to tell me everything because she knows I'll be just as excited and curious and creative as she is.
I'll say no, when a no is what's really called for. But more than that, I want to be a yes.