At least a hundred times a day, I utter the word “no.”
Can I have more goldfish?
Can I jump from this step?
Can I watch a movie?
Can we go to Kmart?
No. No. No. No. No.
Most days I feel like the No Monster. Of course it’s necessary. Kids need to hear no; they need to know boundaries and respect them; they need to experience big and little “no’s.” But sometimes, a little “yes” can go a long, long way.
A few nights ago, we went out for a family walk. The boys climbed in the double stroller and we set off wandering down the sidewalk around our house. We were soon headed in the direction of Roanoke College’s Elizabeth Campus. There’s a nice stone pathway with a quiet loop that doesn’t require too much uphill effort, and near our house flat terrain is hard to find. As we crossed the street, Jackson asked, “Can we walk when get to the pathway?”
“No” was sitting right on the tip on my tongue. I glanced down to see four barefeet resting on the floor of the stroller. This observation seemed to support my initial inclination. Parker had already bathed and the bottoms of his feet would be dirty again for sure. Who knows what sharp objects were waiting to be stepped on! In their excitement they’d probably take off running, only to stumble and fall, leaving tearful sobs and bloody knees as our company for the long ride home. “No” was definitely the most sensible answer, but it wasn’t the one that they would hear.
“But what about Parker?” I countered. “He’s already bathed.”
“It doesn’t matter. It will be fine.”
The boys kicked their bare feet over the edge of the stroller and raced into freedom. They didn’t go far before they stopped to examine a pile of sand nestled in the seams between the stones. They talked together as their fingers moved the tiny grains around and around like miniature bulldozers. After they grew weary of this task, they stood up; Jackson turned to Parker and asked, “Wanna hold hands?”
I caught my breath. Would the answer be yes or no?
I watched as Parker took Jackson’s hand in his own and they scampered down the path, talking and laughing side by side, their small hands locked with love. We would have missed a mighty beautiful scene that evening had the word “no” reigned over our actions.
A simple “yes” can hold a mountain of magic.