The Yes Experiment

May 18, 2010 at 5:00 am | Posted in little bug, SAHM, the 'burbs, Uncategorized | 23 Comments
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(Today’s Five for Ten topic is Yes)

Attorneys are trained to think around a question. We do not say “yes,” we say: “It is reasonable to expect…” or “It is likely that…”  Instead of no, we might say, “That is not the intent.”

Anyone who has a toddler, however — or anyone who knows a toddler or who has ever been a toddler — understands that most of your days are spent telling that child “No.” No, you may not: climb up on the stool, stand on your chair, touch the stove, watch a movie, drink Diet Coke. No I will not: read you another book, lie in bed with you, bring you another glass of water. It is exhausting for you both.

What would happen if we could just say “Yes”? We tell our children no for their own safety and so that we don’t go broke buying them every toy in CVS.  But those little things that, for one day, in the grand scheme of things, are pretty inconsequential? What if you did read another book or bring another glass of water?

I conducted an experiment on Little Buggy, my 2 3/4-year-old today. After a weekend of being sick, culminating Sunday afternoon with projectile vomiting all over the car, she stayed home from school. So not only would I be with her all day, but she could probably stand a little extra TLC. Within the bounds of safety and functionality, I’d try to say “yes” to every request. We’d go through the day without that enervating back-and-forth of “Can I…”/”No.”  Here’s what happened:

8:08: I want to wear a dress. (Normally, for just hanging around the house, I’d suggest shorts or pants. But who says you can’t wear a dress whenever you want?)
8:14: Can I call Daddy at work?
8:20: Can I have apple juice?
8:27: I don’t WAAAAAAANT a cinnamon raisin bagel. Put it back on the counter.
8:28: I want to go in the sprinkler. (To this: “Maybe later,” which technically wasn’t “No.”)
8:40: I want to go for a walk.
8:43: I want to walk to the cupcake store.
8:50: I want a movie from the library. (Outcome: we walked to the library and then to the bakery/cupcake store.)
8:51: I want to bring an Easter treat in the stroller (an “Easter treat” is a duck- or bunny-shaped SweetTart left over from Easter and usually reserved for bribes. But, why not, just today.)
9:15: (At the bakery) I want a cupcake. (How about a muffin?)
9:48: (Leaving the bakery and walking past another store displaying a big advertisement for ice cream in the window) I want an ice cream. (Again, a diversion: maybe later.)
10:30: (After arriving home) Can I ride my tricycle down the street?
10:36: I’m too tired. Can you push it?
10:40: Can you carry my tricycle home? I want to run.
10:42: Can we play red-light, green-light?
11:50: I want to eat lunch outside.
12:03: (After it was suggested that perhaps she shouldn’t drop her food on the ground, as it might attract animals.) I want to feed the animals.
12:28: I want to play on my playground {i.e., our swingset} and THEEEENNN I will take a nap. (OK, for five minutes.)

“If I throw my spaghetti on the ground then awlllll the animals will come: bees and bears and MONSTERS. And squirrels.”

After a nap, we went to the local nursery to look at flowers and plants for the patio. Little Buggy loved the flowers and especially the disco-like reflective balls that I guess some people put in their gardens. She wanted one, of course. I had to turn back into nagging, nay-saying, no-fun mother: No, we can not buy a disco-garden-ball. No, we are not buying that palm tree or that running fountain or the rose bush.

Dinner: I want Arthur Mac & Cheese and a red popsicle and apple juice. (Not what I would have made for her, but, OK. No arguments.)

7:02: I don’t want to take a bath; I want to watch the Madeline movie from the library.

And, finally, here, I had to stand my ground. I suppose my experiment was destined to revert back to push-and-pull toddler mode under the stress of bathtime and bedtime and “I don’t waaaaaaant to go potty; I don’t waaaant to brush my teeth.” No, you must go potty. No, you must brush your teeth.

We have to say “no” — to instill safety, boundaries, values. To make sure they get enough sleep and their teeth don’t rot out. But it feels so good to say yes, especially when you see your child’s eyes light up, like, Really? I can have a piece of candy right after breakfast? Really? You’ll take me to the library and the bakery? Just like that? I was reminded that she is just a small person — a baby, really. I have such power over her innate wants and needs. I have never worried before that I say “no” too often, nor have I thought that I spoil my toddler. But this tangible effort today to ban the word “no” — which I realized we throw out almost unconsciously — gave me a glimpse into the small universe of the young child whose wants and needs are so, so simple.

Thank you Sarah and Jen of Momalom for inspiring me to write again (regularly!). As a former journalist, I embrace being given a topic and a deadline upon which to write it. I actually often find it easier to write when I am not spending my creative energies thinking up a topic, but can run with a given idea. Thanks to all the new readers (and Tweeters) who visited my blog and commented; conversely, I have stumbled upon so many new blogs that my Google Reader may overload. Last night, as I was hunched over my laptop, writing and reading and commenting and Tweeting, my husband said, “What are you doing? Competitive blogging?” Well, yes, kind of, but competitive only in the sense of pushing oneself and expanding one’s horizons. These past 10 days have felt like an event — a kind of Olympics of camaraderie and support and fun. I look forward to meeting many of you in August!

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23 Comments »

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  1. What? No palm tree or running fountain?

    Their wants/needs really are so simple, and yet SO easy to say “no” to. I never realized how often I said “no” until I consciously said, “yes.” How eye-opening. And, like you said, how nice to be able to use our parental “power” to make them happy. (Within reason, of course!)

  2. I loved this. My initial effort at Yes was about how Yes is the easy answer – Yes just watch more tv, Yes you can have cookies, etc but that No is where the strength comes in. Didn’t end up going with that for the 5 for 10, but I LOVE this idea that YES is the discipline!

    (ha. Competitive blogging. ha.)

  3. This so right. There are a lot of things to which we say “no” without very much thought behind the reason. But ultimately, it’s used to create boundaries and saftey. It’s a necessary (sometimes) evil. Thanks for a great post!

  4. This is so “on.” I, too, find that I say “no” for no good reason sometimes. It is easier, sometimes, to say “yes.” I will start thinking more along the lines of “Why not?”

  5. Looking at your timeline made me exhausted. But then I thought, hey that is me too. I don’t know how we do it, in between all the no’s and yes, but because of your post, I am inspired today, to say yes (within reason) to my daughter today.

    Thanks for the post. Glad to meet you through Momalom and will be visiting regularly.

  6. As long as it’s not endangering her or others around her, I’m going to try to say YES to my toddler a little more. This day of YES is reminding me to do that, and I’m glad.

    I bet she will be too 🙂

  7. What a cool experiment. I think I say no to my daughter at least 20 times a day. It’s such an automatic response. One day of yes would be such a treat for her. I think I’ll try it too … within limits of course 🙂 Thanks for a great post.

  8. I am exactly that kinda gal, that always says no.

    However I do agree that there are alot of things that a parent can say YES to. For the sake of avoiding an arguement. Besides how important really are half of the things we tell them no.

  9. I wholeheartedly agree! I’ve mastered the art of saying no. For many years. Until I had a child. And now, I’m making an effort tosay Yes to him more often. It’s a magical word to a 3-year-old. It unlocks doors. It fuels the imagination. It’s life-giving. It feels good to hear and say Yes.

    Glad to have met you through Momalom’s 5-4-10.

  10. I think yes days are a great treat…and remind us that we can say yes more than we think. Sometimes I just say no because it is easier and it isn’t what I want. But kids need to hear yes.

  11. Ok. I’m not going to lie. Normally these types of stories bore me to tears because it is MY life. My life every day, but you have such a way with words. I felt your awe at the word yes. I felt the way you had to say no, because we do have to say no, but it feeeeels sooooo goooood to say yes. In that way we are toddlers, too.

    Great post! New follower. Thanks for posting.

    Alita
    Da Mainiacs

  12. What a great experiment. I’m thinking of doing a weekly or monthly “yes” day with my son. A day were I saw yes to just about all of his wants. Within reason of course.

  13. Yes days can be so full of fun and adventure, but inevitably there’s always a No in there as well 🙂 All in moderation!

  14. I try to remind myself that it is not necessary to say “no” as often as I sometimes do. When I find myself saying “no” as just an exercise of power without any real reason for it, I know that it’s time to lighten up!

  15. Yes. I am trying to implement Yes instead of No at my house (and wrote about it similarly! Great minds!) I find that I do say yes, but at the end of a long stretch of days, I grab my old go-to and No NO No No No comes out.

    Loved your time line. (especially the part about riding the tricycle and, 4 minutes later, wanting you to carry it.)

  16. What a lovely story of your day. I can almost see your little girl bouncing with excitement.

    This is so key “the young child whose wants and needs are so, so simple.” They can only think in the now and the word yes brings such joy.

    I’m a little out of practice saying No nonstop because the kids are in college or out. Your story brought it all back.

  17. Glad you and Little Buggy both survived your Yes Experiment. I’m having some issues with my own 2 3/4 year old and all those No’s really do take a toll on both of us.

    My own experiment today is to stop and think really hard before saying Yes or No so that I feel confident sticking to my guns with whatever decision I know to be best. Part of my issue is that I try too hard to be democratic and that doesn’t work for either of us. I need to be able to say Yes and No and mean what I say. I’m the mom after all, right?

    Thank you for this really nice reflection on Yes and No and the universe of the toddler, Kathryn.

  18. When I’m honest, I know my knee-jerk no is more about power than about great parenting. No has it’s place, but yes sure is more, well, affirming.

  19. Dude. The toddlers owe Momalom a big ole thank you (and cupcakes?) for all the Yes days that went around the world. Mine included. I didn’t try to say yes vs no, but I did find myself remembering all the awesome five-for-ten-ers who were making that effort. The result was a really good day. Saying yes didn’t ruin appetites or create materialistic and manipulative monsters. It just gave us all a chance to relax about the stuff that really doesn’t matter in the long run.

    Also, you deserve a medal for your timeline. I have a 3-years-1-month little girl who is so similar to your Buggy.

  20. Wow! I loved this post! Here from Momalom and will be back. What a clever idea. I can’t believe you did all that in one day ESP considering the horrible weekend of sicknesses you have. It usually takes me a good week to recover after the kids are sick.

    “I was reminded that she is just a small person — a baby, really. I have such power over her innate wants and needs.”

    I loved this line. Great to meet you!

  21. Competitive blogging. I love it. It has sort of felt that way. Extreme blogging, I would say. (Do I see a new reality show?) AnyWAY, Yes, it is so difficult to say only YES. Even when you embark on such a wonderful experiment, well… a disco ball for the garden just doesn’t always make the cut.
    Thanks for participating, Kathryn!

  22. So um, is there a party in August or something? How do I get on the invite list? Boy would I love to meet you and some of these other bloggers I feel I am getting to know.

    Trust me, I will say Yes.

    To my kids? Not so much.

  23. I think I need to try this one day. Actually, make that two. One day where I say yes to the kids, and then one day I say yes to myself all day.


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