The Qualified “Yes” and Other Musings

Today I found my diffuser in the butter.

This has no relevance to my post tonight, but needs to be said. I’d better get more silky curls out of this.

On to other things.

For some time now, the parenting experts have vainly been advising me to say “No” as little as possible. They advise me to avoid such negative terms that will stunt my child’s sense of the infinite possibilities their inflated self-esteem can make possible. They tell me to state, instead, what the child can do. As in,”That’s very creative, honey, now let’s try the knife to spread the butter and mommy can put the diffuser upstairs,” or,”Tommy, you can pet kitty like this, softly. Without the scissors.”

So, I’m all in favor of saying “Yes” on occasion, but I confess to you that this gracious act of benevolence is how I get my kids to do half of the needed housework done. It’s simple: Ben asks if he can go outside: “Sure, as soon as you empty the dishwasher.” Sophie asks if she can watch a movie, “Of course, honey, as soon as your room is clean.” Pretty basic.

Clearly, larger requests call for more payback, as in, “Mom, can I go to Chuck E. Cheese with Stephan’s family today?” And, although Stephan’s parents are footing the bill and it only benefits me in the end, I selfishly persist with my method: “Definitely, as long as you scrub the Stinky Bathroom to odorless perfection.” (Note: If you have someone in diapers, someone half potty trained, and a tween with a very sleepy aim at night and don’t know what I mean by the Stinky Bathroom, please advise promptly.)

This also goes for nice things we already planned to do. Say I live in Southern California, as I do, and it is Saturday, and we decide to go to Disneyland. (Because we live here and we can– jealous?) So, I already planned on going, but there’s nothing saying I can’t get a little mileage from it by simply by saying I’ll leave as soon as everyone has scrubbed the floor of an assigned room Cinderella-style, thereby also getting into the Magic Kingdom mood.

This is where TV and video games become my unlikely allies as a mother. My kids think they need these things every day. Incidentally, (see me wickedly rubbing my hands here) every day I also just so happen to need a few things done. Thanks to this sinister plan, I have become the supernice mom who pretty much says “Sure, honey,” to this daily request. It just is paired up with my now wellworn phrase “as soon as homework and chores are done, if it’s not time for dinner.” If the request is not likely to result in anyone being killed, maimed or otherwise ill-advised, I say yes to almost everything.

Judge me Dear Reader, but between me and you, I even say yes under this condition to things I really have no intention of allowing, I just know there will not be time for them to finish homework and chores before dinner anyway. I am sometimes kind enough to point this out: “Of course, honey, you can go build a mud volcano in my garden (not made up), just as soon as homework and chores are done and it’s not dinnertime. Oh, darn, honey, it’s almost five. I guess it may not work out today. Maybe Another Time.”

Ah, that wonderful alternate reality, Another Time. This is the time when all happy, fun, messy, loud things happen for my children. It is surely a fabulous place, I wouldn’t know.

I’ll end today with my favorite case study of the Qualified Yes. My children despise the civilized pretense of shoe wearing. Shoes are removed within seconds of arriving anywhere (including Church, however unChristian it makes dad). So, here is how the Qualified Yes has been getting shoes on feet for me for many a year. It starts five minutes before I planned on leaving anyway: “Hey, Sophie, we have got to go right now.””Can’t we stay a little longer?””Well, I guess if you put your shoes on now, we can stay another five minutes.”Shoes magically go on, Sophie smugly feels as if five more minutes were milked from the playdate. Everyone is happy.

Call it manipulative, whatever. A little give and take does a family good. So when my sweeties think of something they want, I simply think of something I also want, and that becomes the simple key to getting the desired “Yes.” In my nobler moments, I feel this gently reflects the give-and-take reality of life and prepares them better for it. Other times I just need the bathroom to be a little less stinky.

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