I’m not usually one to do challenges or a lot of random holidays, but this one has intrigued me since I first heard about it a couple years back.
It’s a response to the “no fatigue” that parents can feel, having to answer a million questions a day with “no, no, no”. It’s exhausting for everyone and a day of throwing caution to the wind and going crazy with my kids sounded wonderful.
I was really curious to see what it would tell me about my regular parenting style and what it would show me about my children.
So we embarked on the adventure a few weeks ago and I loved it!
The morning began with a movie and blueberry pancakes.
Pancakes are not uncommon but we don’t typically start the day with screen time. I have a list of things to accomplish before screens and then there is usually a time limit.
So broken rule number one was no screen time restriction. It was fun to not pick that battle for a day, but I’m glad it’s not our usual.
Next up was Lava Tag with all the cushions from all the couches.
We made some effort before the fact to set it up with the kids; a list of modified rules for the day.
The requests have to be:
Let’s not ride your bike down the very steep, very icy driveway at full speed.
In case you’re wondering this shout out is for my three year old daughter. Her brother is the more cautious one and she is the one insistent on giving me a heart attack.
As much as I’d love to, we can not embark on a tropical vacation on a whim. We can dream and, maybe, hot tub. But no plane rides.
Meaning no spaceships to the moon, time machines back to the dinosaurs, or fights with dragons although we can pretend. Bring on the Imagination.
4- Agreed upon
This was a special inclusion for one of my children who can struggle with days that have been hyped up. I tried to explain the purpose of this day without putting too much pressure on it to be “amazing”.
Too much pressure for one day often results in a day of contrary behavior, often exhibited by constantly asking to do what everyone else isn’t. Wanting outside when everyone is inside, wanting pancakes when I’m making waffles, etc.
It is a battle of control and there’s a fine line between giving grace and caving as well as between standing my ground and losing a heart for the sake of winning a battle.
There’s a whole grace-discipline balance here that mystifies me and brings me to my knees in prayer constantly. That’s all I know to do, so if you have a similar child….we can clink some glasses and throw up some prayers but I don’t have much else for you.
For Yes Day, the rule was that they needed to agree on the request and bring it before me together with eye contact and a polite voice.
Clearly our kids rule day was super chill with me as Monica Geller.
“Rules are good. Rules help control the fun”
Then, incase any of that went awry, we put some ideas in a box to draw from. We filtered through the boredom box of family activities, taking out the chores and adding some extra crazy ideas. This was set aside to help the kids if the pressure of making decisions was too much. Most of us like the idea of being in charge until everyone is looking at us awaiting an answer. The pressure can be a lot.
I think my Children’s favorite part may have been making a list of rules for mom. I helped them out and asked questions, but it was good for me to hear their input.
Rules for Mom:
1- Use Paper Plates
We had a discussion about why I usually say “no” or when I get the most irritated and the answer is, when I’m doing dishes. Hands down, one of the most tiring things about adult life is the constant cleaning of the kitchen. I finally get all caught up on dishes, dry my hands, and walk away. Two seconds later, someone is hungry. It’s constant and so I’ve made a point to use paper products on special days. Most days, I believe that me washing the dishes is responsible for the earth and teaches my kids stewardship and patience as they wait for me. I’m typically all about it, but have learned when to prioritize bonding. I can’t be the fun, playful, “yes” mom when the dishes are overflowing. I don’t know how to save them for later and so we will eat with paper and the world will go on turning.
2- Be okay with Sugar and Mess and Craziness
So my time Quarantining taught me several fun things. Not the least of which, is that I’m a much bigger control freak than I ever imagined. Being home all the time has stretched my boundaries on mess and sugar. We have done a lot of boredom busting cooking projects which has left me with a kitchen to clean (surprise, surprise) and a more lax attitude about sugar consumption. It’s stretched me as is, and then you add another adult home 24/7 who doesn’t answer every question the way you would and it’s a rather humbling situation.
I’ve nearly bitten my tongue off as I’ve struggled to admit that my way isn’t the only way to do things and, yet, we’ve all survived.
Although it’s probably good to not let kids run the ship most of the time. Limits on rules and mess and craziness do matter.
3- My Phone is for Pictures and Music Only.
I knew that I wanted to capture some images of the day and family dance parties are a favorite so we didn’t want to throw the phone away, but I didn’t want to be tied to it. I can be bad about getting sucked into Social Media, texting, or phone calls. Some things outside my home that draw my attention in deeper. It is my adult social outlet at times, so I’ve made my peace with it as a part of life, but I need rules to keep it in check. I’m not that different than the kids that way.
4- This is Meant to be a Day of Enthusiastic “Yes” not a day of Begrudging “Okay”
I added this one all on my own because I know what I need and who I am. This year has worn me down in a lot of ways. I’ve tried to keep light and positive most of the time, because it helps me, but I’ve broken down often.
One of the hardest things to keep has been a great sense of consistency.
I’d like to say that I have made through this year, or any of my parenting journey, with perfectly timed discipline and clear instruction. I’d love to say that I’ve been so on top of my gentle discipline that I’ve never lost my mind or that my children have never broken me down to a place where rules are but a distant memory.
I’d really love to tell you that, but I’d be a big, fat liar.
This year has seen me in my Mary Poppins moments of encouraging children to clean up in a sing song voice, it has seen me lovingly guide and discipline little hearts and redirect towards better activities, it has seen me play joyfully, engage in their games and teach them gently.
It has also seen me running up the stairs after tucking kids in for the 12th time shouting things like “I promise you are going to want to be in bed when I get there or else…”
I sounded nothing like Mary Poppins and broke all the rules of a peaceful tuck in.
This year has seen me fight tooth and nail over the smallest infraction and then lose all will to fight during the next battle. I’ve had some extreme laissez faire days of parenting in the midst of it.
So my kids aren’t totally unfamiliar with a break down on rules, but this is an effort to gift them a day of “yes” instead of a surrender of my will power.
It’s not a “why not” because I’ve lost the drive to fight. It’s a “yes” because I want to experience this with you. Kids are plenty smart enough to pick up on the difference and it is powerful.
All in all, it was a powerful, rewarding, encouraging day.
What struck me is that it was really a version of sabbath. Of rest and enjoyment, something I’ve been meaning to do for years and haven’t ever quite figured out. I couldn’t make it happen until it was for my kids.
I know exactly why, mom guilt. For me, it’s the guilt of a stay at home mom.
“Why should I earn a chance to relax? I’m not even out there working for this.”
“What have I done to deserve a break? I get plenty of little ones throughout the day.”
Friends, “little breaks” here means a brief moment of peace in a pantry or occasionally going to the bathroom alone. It’s not truly a break.
I know moms who work outside the home struggle with their own guilt too, it’s all so hard and we don’t know how to carry it all.
Relaxing feels like we are dropping a ball, but so often it is putting a yoke back on us. We return to the guilt and the drain over and over again because it is familiar. I push myself harder than I need to at home with the kids because I have to prove that this job is important and important has to mean exhausting.
But sometimes the important work is the gift of rest and of learning to give good gifts to our children. Mimicking our Heavenly Father who made us for good, important, holy work and for delight, rest, and relationship.
The day helped drive home the importance of asking what I’m saying “yes” to and what I’m saying “no” to.
Are my rules in an effort to; fight for character? Control personality? Bolster my own pride? Or, simply, a result of exhaustion?
Am I loving and raising the kids I was given or am I trying to shape them into someone else?
When does encouraging character development step on the toes of altering their personality?
How do we get that line right all the time?
Truthfully I doubt that we get it right all the time, but it helps to ask the question.
Teaching my poor sunshine girl to enjoy the outdoors in the winter, while allowing her the freedom to rock a sun dress indoors and smell all the flowers we can.
Also, sometimes just not forcing her out in the cold. I pick the battle 9 times out of 10, but gift her a day every once in awhile where we don’t struggle into snow gear.
We run around the house and stay warm all day and save the power struggle for another day. The outdoors are a gift and if they are always a fight she may lose that perspective.
Playing a video game with my son and entering into his creativity to foster relationship.
This one steps on my pride a little, because I wasn’t quite ready for him to play games but he’s doing it well. He has a dad who plays games and makes it a healthy part of his routine. It’s his down time and not an addiction.
I’m choosing to see that and see my sons creativity blosson as he builds new places and watch his teacher’s heart develop as he helps me find my way around.
I will say “no” due to exhaustion at times, which is part of character building. We all need to learn that our people won’t always match our energy level. Sometimes we have to rise or fall for the occasion. It’s a two-way street and we take turns bending for the other.
My children really didn’t ask for anything crazy and it encouraged me in our regular parenting style. It was different enough that I’m confident they normally have enough rules, and familiar enough that I’m confident they usually have enough choices.
We play hopscotch with that grace-discipline line and, certainly, mess up regularly but I like these kids we are raising and they make me feel pretty good about the job.
What was really beautiful about the day was witnessing how often saying “yes” was a yes to relationship. The kids mostly just wanted more of us.