Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Land of No

If you ask my kids where they live, it’s quite possible they’ll tell you they hail from “The Land of No.” If you ask them what life is like in the “Land of No”, they will likely tell you that this strange land is ruled by a wild-eyed, crazy-haired witch who at times resembles their Mom but at times is almost unrecognizable as she bombards them with a barrage of “no, No, NOs!!!!!”

Some of the “NOs” I so freely administer are well-founded; they support a safety-first kind of an attitude… “No biting. No hitting. No standing on the furniture. No jumping on the bed. No playing on the stairs!” Some of them lay down the basic (and not necessarily unreasonable) laws of the land… “No lollipops before breakfast. No dessert until you finish your dinner. No bike riding before 7AM. No TV before your homework is finished. No talking back!”

Some of my NO’s are uttered – or, more likely, barked, screamed or snarled – before the poor kids can even get the words out… “Mom, can I have a… NO!” “Mom, can we…. NO!” “Mom, could I… NO!” NO, NO, NO! These unfounded and uninformed NOs are usually offered up on a day when I am especially tired, cranky and rundown… a state that I seem to be in far more often than I (and they!) would like.

One day last week, I found myself working from home. Our sitter needed the day off but that didn’t change the fact that I still had a ton of work to do. Needless to say, it is a bit difficult to focus when one year old triplets are chirping from their cribs, a three year old is refusing to nap and a five year old thinks you are the play date for the day. This is the just the type of scenario that brings out the residing witch of the Land of No. She showed up so abruptly and with such force that even I was a bit surprised when the words flew out of my mouth… “What are you doing?! Why are you doing that?! NO! NO! NO!"

My stunned kids stopped in their tracks and just looked at me with their eyes and mouths wide open. “But Mom” they replied in unison “we want to fill up the kiddie pool and you said we couldn’t turn on the hose. So, we decided to fill it up with sippy cups.” Really? This is what I flipped out and screamed NO about?! What is wrong with me? What could be more sweet, innocent (and frankly, quiet and time consuming!) than a three and five year old working together to fill up a pool one cup at a time? What a great idea! This was nothing to freak out about and it was most certainly not a good use of my overused NO. Unfortunately, by the time I realized this, it was too late. My sweet kids were sulking in the yard while my mind wandered back to my laptop and email and other less meaningful things than the two disappointed tots out back.

Fortunately, I think I’ve learned a valuable lesson from my time in the Land of No. I’ve learned that the NO must be used with discretion. I’ve learned that I would do well to recall the words of Liam’s kindergarten teacher, “Stop, Look and Listen”, before I simply start shouting “no, No, NO!” I tried this approach a few nights ago when the triplets ran into the street – which, of course, is a major no-no. However, they weren’t bolting into oncoming traffic; they had spotted an inviting puddle just over the curb and apparently, needed to splash around a bit. Rather than go to my default “NO!” I just watched them. Closely. Their grins spread from ear to ear. They were holding hands and jumping up and down and squealing with glee. They weren’t in danger. They weren’t hurting anyone. They were simply having fun. And, I must admit, so was I. Now that I’ve been reminded of the pleasantries of life beyond the Land of No, I’m hoping to spend a lot more time there... and, I can assure you, the kids are too!

Note: This post originally appeared at www.parentsask.com

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