Every weekend I take the girls to Whole Foods, it’s a ritual. We grab a green smoothie, our veggies, and other special items we need for the week. It’s usually sandwiched in between the pet store and regular grocery store, and always so packed that I can’t wait to just get in and out.
And every week the girls ask me for the same thing, to make fresh orange juice. My answer is always, “No.”
I don’t know why I always say no, maybe it’s the price, I mean $7.99 for 16 ounces, or $13.99 for 32 ounces is a lot of dinero, and it doesn’t last long. Plus I know it will take extra time, and I don’t even want know how to work the machine! So I say what I’ve been saying since they were babies.
Ironically it’s the one word that we all are sometimes afraid to say to our peers or friends. There are countless books and articles teaching us how to learn to say no, so we can free ourselves of unnecessary responsibilities and start taking care of ourselves more. Yet it’s the one word we easily say to our children over and over and over again.
“No you can’t have a cookie before dinner.”
“No baby! No tearing all the cups and Tupperware out of the cabinet.”
“No do not hit the baby with the frying pan like Rapunzel!” (True story.)
There’s even a famous children’s book about it called “No David”.
No was ironically one of the first words our second daughter learned to say. “No no no” she’d coo, and I’d instantly feel guilty. I knew I was less tolerant and patient once we added the second child, and just wanted to keep things simple. So each week when they look at me longingly and plead, “Mommy can we please make our own orange juice?” with those sweet curious eyes, I always say no heartlessly without even thinking or coming up with a good excuse.
Until this week.
I was in a particular hurry to get to dance class and just wanted to pick up a salad a few sundries when our oldest hopelessly asked again, “Mommy, I know you’re going to say no, but please can we make orange juice this time?”She knew I wasn’t likely to pay for it, or take the time, and the look on her face was so resigned. I mean how could I say no, again?
As I opened my mouth to try to think of an excuse, this time I sighed, smiled slightly, and said yes.
Their eyes lit up in excitement and they squealed as they ran to the machine. And while they chose the size container they wanted, I asked someone at Whole Foods how to use the contraption (Which didn’t need instruction by the way, proving that we always make things harder in our heads.) The girls were so giddy as they took turns pressing the button, and watching the sweet, fresh juice pour into their special bottle.
They each made a small orange juice, and carried it proudly to the checkout area where they gently put it on the conveyor belt for me to pay. When we arrived home much later, they asked to have the orange juice for dinner, and savored every sip. Still so happy to know that they had created this sweet treat, and each time they had some, rationing just a little bit each morning, they told their dad the story of how they made it.
As I sat, watched, and listened to the girls, I finally understood the shift that needed to happen. Instead of always being in a hurry, and denying our girls experiences, I need to learn to do the opposite. Be present and aware of each decision I make, thinking through what it all means.
Do I really need to wash the dishes right after dinner and deny them an extra book at bedtime?
As much as I loathe Barbie’s, is 15 minutes of outfit changes really that bad once a week?
It’s so easy to say no to our kids, but there’s more power in and behind the word yes. Yes means we are open to change. Yes means we hear that yes, this is important to you. Yes is love.
In a year, our littlest will be reading to me, and already our oldest doesn’t want to hold my hand when we cross the street. A couple of more years and I won’t be able to kiss her goodbye at school drop off, or have those extra-long cuddles each night. This time we have with our children is so important yet so incredibly short.
So I’ve made the promise to myself to think before I utter the word no, and try to give our girls all the time and experiences I can. No may be instinctual, but yes unlocks a world of tomorrow’s memories.
And just might make me smile too.
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