Saying YES to a toddler in a NO world.
Sometimes, as a parent, I feel like an overplayed Britney Spears song (don't judge me for my pre-teen jams). We all kill a song with the repeat button, but then there is a moment in time where the life cycle of a song has come to an end. For me, once a song is dead, the intro is enough to have me lunging for the volume button. Why? Because it has reached a state of shear annoyance.
And there it is - the life cycle of of the word 'NO' had been completed by the proverbial 'repeat' button of my voice, thus reaching a state of annoyance.
Now, before you quit reading, I am not one of those moms advocating to never tell their children no. I still tell my kid "no" ON THE DAILY!
But what I did challenged myself with, was the task of saying "YES" where I could, instead of just shutting her down.
I remember when I was a kid, I loved touching everything (as do all kids that have ever creeped this earth). I remember a specific experience, leaning in to touch a Garfield greeting card, only to be met with a quick snap of the leash. Yep, Nana clicked me into a tightly fitted harness whenever we ventured out to the mall. And now, as a mother, I get it. It is much easier (and safer these days) to be strapped into a stroller, or harness if you choose, no judgements here. I remember feeling annoyed and frustrated, thinking to myself, "why can't i touch it? I can't break a greeting card." As a child, just the ability to hold it, touch it, and explore it would have been a small adventure in my day.
Now - Fast forward to me at Hobby Lobby with Sweyzie (my 4 year old). We are in the 'Home Goods' section and I find myself telling her "NO" over and over and over and over and over and over. And then I challenged myself with the task of telling her "yes" where i could. Now, looking back, Hobby Lobby was probably not the ideal store to flesh out this experiment of mine, but in the end there were no casualties.
After all the tiny frustrated arguments of "Don't touch this" I finally responded with, "you can touch that". She had eyes like saucers and was so thrilled to explore the smooth edges of a plastic turtle dish with her sticky lolly popped fingers. Then the floodgates blew wide open with, "Can i touch this?" "How about this?" "Can i hold this?" and so on and so forth.... It was fun for her to explore, and enjoy new things, but it required more of me - AND MORE OF MY TIME.
[Insert my bratty unfiltered thoughts: I already can't poop without you tapping morse code at the door or picking at the bathroom lock with the small end of your comb. Do I really have to give you more of MY TIME at MY STORE????]
I realized that me saying "no" to her constantly was not always on behalf of her safety, as I would like to think. It was most times out of sheer convenience, which boils down to a deeper heart issue - selfishness. I was accommodating all of my wants, needs and desires, and discounting all of hers in the process.
I thought I was being some cool, progressive mother with an experiment, all the while, God was just using this to expose my deeper heart issue.
As mothers we are called to love and protect our children and that will require many hard and stern NO's. But it will also require us to put ourselves aside and give them many joyful YES's wherever we can.
More importantly the living God calls us to a life serving others, that includes our husbands and children. Mark 12:30-31 states, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and will all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these." <----- Jesus talking, listen up!
Philippians 2:3-4 states, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others."
The Lord was so kind to me when He revealed how self serving I was being. I felt that initial sting of guilt and sadness of all the time I robbed her of, (the enemy would have me stay in this place), but God rushes into my heart valiantly with the words, "begin again". He is SO good to us, constant with His love and affections. And that then becomes the platform of love for my little family. He loves, therefore, I can love. He is patient, therefore, I can be patient.
What does that look like fleshed out in the real world?
Practically speaking, that requires me to be better prepared. For me that looks like getting up earlier, so that we avoid a hurried state of mind and she gets time to pick flowers all the way to the car. It requires me to be more self disciplined and vision cast my day, both of which do not come natural to me. Anyone who knows me, knows that before kids I kind of just flew by the seat of my pants. NEWSFLASH: That approach in life does not pan out well with kids.
It requires me to say, "yes you can ride in the big part of the shopping cart." "Yes, we can go to the park" "Yes, you can have Sprite." Yes, you can make "soup" in the bathroom sink."
I have to work in extra time for dawdles in the parking lot. At Lowe's we sit on the front porch swings for a minute before doing boring adult things. I have to be patient and let her make decisions even if that means that I have to quiet my own desires for the sake of hers.
Now do not for a second think that because I am writing this, that I have it all figured out. That we go through the day free of distress. We still struggle. I still struggle. I will always struggle. Just yesterday we had a rough trip to the bathroom. Ask those closest to me and they will tell you I lose my pieces often.
But when she looks back over her childhood, I pray that the times I fought for love greatly outweigh my parental shortcomings (there will be a lot of them).
I find peace in the scripture that my sister-in-law reminds me of, "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins." - 1 Peter 4:8.
What keeps me sane is SITTING with Jesus quietly (and a strong cup of coffee) - ABIDING daily. Resting in His truths and keeping His word at the forefront of my heart keeps me in a gentle state and more aware of my greater calling. Loving my girl more than myself - for there is no greater commandment.