(This is really a post written in February, but not edited and posted until March.)
Somewhere in between putting a chicken into the oven to roast and hanging a white ruffly canopy from a bedroom ceiling, I was called up to active duty in the imagination draft. My role was wicked witch, evil stepmother, angered pirate, and the list goes on. I took a deep breath and reminded myself of the unofficial challenge on which I had recently embarked, and jumped into the character as best as I could manage. It can be hard to remember all of the herbs you plan to rub on a chicken when you are also supposed to be poisoning an apple or throwing a pixie prisoner into a cage. And also remember what sort of nail you need to find to hang a canopy from a slanted ceiling.
I feel like I spent most of November and December saying “no” and “wait” and “stop” to the small residents of my house. There were holiday errands to run, gifts to buy and wrap, projects to work on, last minute supplies to pick up, and food lists to think about. And then there were normal life obligations. Too many days felt like they were in constant motion, jumbled and unsettled.
I have a child who likes to live large. I want her to live large. I need to teach her limits too. We all have to learn that we don’t get everything we want immediately and other people factor into our choices as well. I think part of my “no” volley was an experiment in trying to teach self control and self containment. Every autumn as the year closes, I find myself evaluating life and the impact our daily living has on our collective life. I often have inner freak out festivals from October until January when I can delude myself into a fresh start at life. Part of this past year’s festival events was my “no” workshop.
The year started roughly with sad losses on my husband’s side of the family that had to be explained to the girls. So with a slightly conscious effort to make happy happen again, and a slightly unconscious determination to say yes, we headed into February.
I read an Instagram post from a woman who talked about her “say yes” journal she has started with her kids. Intrigued, I went to her site and fell in love with her idea. I immediately knew the thoughts and emotions she expressed. And so I made an engaged effort to play tag. I consciously played imagination duty. I gave a few choices (in perimeters). I did some suggesting of things I secretly knew I usually didn’t want to do. One day I texted my friend and said “I really don’t feel like dressing them in snowsuits and taking them sledding. They need naps and a reading lesson before we head to ballet.”
She texted back. “Just do it”
I unloaded my dishwasher and played out the schedule for the day in my mind for the fifth time. They can sleep tomorrow when my schedule was too blocked to go sledding. She will definitely learn to read next year in school. She will remember sledding. She will not remember my reading lesson, unless it is the memory of tears I’ve inflicted on her. She will not remember yet another winter afternoon nap.
We went sledding.
Joy and happiness.
7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.
9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone?
10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?
11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
12 “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. – Matthew 7:7-12
I cannot give my children everything and that’s ok. I cannot say yes to people all the time. There are rather good reasons to say no, quite often. But in the middle of my hurry and living, I remember that my Father in Heaven has given me many good things. I see two of those good things standing in front of me, asking for things, daily. Intertwined into learning that God is good even when He says, “no” or “wait” or “trust me, I have good for you”, I want them to know we have a God who wants us to ask for things and delights to give us good.
I’m often reminded how fast these little years go by. There are already phases my oldest child has outgrown that I feel like we barely enjoyed. Sometimes reality, common sense, life, and scheduled responsibility will not let me say yes. But if I can say yes to one (not 42) extra bedtime story, to a puddle splash, to hide and seek, to an unhurried description of a story for the 16th time that week, to one extra little treat, to things that will bring the goodness of God a little clearer in focus, I want to. Because I fail to show His goodness often enough. If a few minutes from my time goes to granting reasonable requests or creating delight, I may be able to teach these little people that God wants to give them good things, even so much more than I do. Because He is the giver of the ultimate good. And that is what everything we do should show.
On saying yes: