I’ve been trying to say ‘yes’ more often lately, even when I would usually say ‘no’. I think I’ve always had a tendency to say ‘no’ to things, even as a child, whereas my older sister was the ‘yes’ child. My uncle would sometimes pop over on a weekend and say, ‘Do you girls fancy-?’ Before he could finish the sentence, my sister had jumped up saying ‘yes’ and I would already be thinking ‘no’. I was just a cautious child I suppose; a homebird, quiet and a big reader. I preferred to be at home with my mum and dad, curled up somewhere warm and enjoying a good book. My sister was, and still is, outgoing and adventurous; grasping opportunities as they come her way, saying ‘yes’.
I may have missed out on a few things as a child, which didn’t bother me at the time. I admit there were a few occasions when my sister returned from a trip to MacDonalds or the cinema and I felt a twinge of regret, but generally I didn’t really care if I missed out through saying ‘no’. My parents encouraged me to do new things. My grandparents encouraged me to do new things. Aunts and uncles encouraged me to do new things. None of them reckoned on my stubbornness though. And I got away with it.
As I entered my teenage years, school, youth clubs, Girl Guides, and all the peer pressure that goes with those surroundings, ‘bullied’ me into trying new things; ice skating, camping, bowling etc. However, I usually did them grudgingly. Of course, I enjoyed myself once I was there, but I didn’t really say ‘yes’ willingly. I did them because I had to. Attending the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme with a group of school friends did a lot for my confidence. I started to say ‘yes’ a bit more. Ironically, it was saying ‘yes’ willingly to a camping trip with these friends and a few others from school that introduced me to my future husband.
We were both sixteen and my future husband (a ‘yes’ person himself) took the cautious teenage me and gradually encouraged me to say ‘yes’ more often. More importantly, with my new-found confidence, I said ‘yes’ willingly, which made it all the more enjoyable.
‘Yes, I’d like to fly on a plane for the first time and spend a few days in Amsterdam.’
‘Yes, I’d like to take a train through France and Italy and see where we end up.’
‘Yes, let’s move to Derby for a job opportunity.’
Now, as a parent, I am sometimes tired and I don’t want to clean up any more mess or start a new activity late in the day. All my instincts are telling me to say ‘no’ to the little pleading face who wants to do some painting before tea or an ‘experiment’ in the kitchen. But I’m trying to say ‘yes’. I want them to be ‘yes’ children. Our eldest has a natural cautiousness too, but by modelling enthusiasm and saying ‘yes’ when I can, she is already so much more outgoing than I was. Our middle child is a ‘yes’ child, jumping up and putting on her shoes before we get further than ‘Would you like to go-?’. We could be going anywhere and she’d be there. Our youngest copies everyone else at the moment, so he is a ‘yes’ child too, for now.
Whenever they ask me if they can do something and I start to form the words ‘No, not right now, another time maybe.’ I stop and ask myself why I’m saying ‘no’. If they are in the wrong frame of mind, we’re about to sit down to tea, it’s bedtime or we need to get to school/dance class/gymnastics/Brownies, then they are all good enough reasons to carry on saying ‘no’. If we have time, resources and energy, I try to say ‘yes’.
‘Yes, let’s paint your doll’s house.’
‘Yes, let’s go for a walk by the river.’
‘Yes, let’s pop in this cafe for a drink and a snack.’
‘Yes, let’s burn off some energy on the swings just before bed.’
Saying ‘yes’ to the little things also makes me feel better about saying ‘no’ to big, important questions like ‘Can I have my own phone?’ or ‘Can I get my ears pierced?’ And I think that because I’m more of a ‘yes’ mummy these days, they accept the occasions I have to say ‘no’ more readily, or at least with some reasoning and persuasion. And I feel less guilty about the times I say ‘no’, even if they go off in a huff, because I know I’ve said ‘yes’ whenever I could.
I’m going to leave you with a picture of the doll’s house they started painting yesterday, because I said ‘yes’. I think you can tell which colours we have a surplus of in the craft cupboard!