Sunday, February 15, 2009

Why bother saying "No"?

I have had four children. All of them are now in their twenties, flown the nest and are leading their own lives with children of their own. I have had the privilege of watching my grandchildren over the past four years whenever I was needed. Sometimes overnight and sometimes just for a couple of hours. Now that I am reliving the experience through my grandkids...I am amazed that anyone has children, much less more than one. I am a more alert observer this time around. I don't see these offspring through sleep deprived eyes or the rose colored glasses of denial. Perhaps my memory has fogged over with time. But as I told my two year and one year old grandsons not to climb the brick steps outside.....for the hundreth time ....only to be ignored.....I paused and wondered why do we say no? Looking back I realize you spend your whole life saying no. It is generally the first word most children learn. They say it back to you. They say it to others. They know what it means. But from early on, they don't see it as applying to themselves. It's comical actually. Except when that tumble results in stitches. Or riding with no hands ends up with a cast.
How many times can you recall saying no. You said it with the best intentions. As parents, we don't say it just for the sake of hearing ourselves speak. Even though we have been accused of this very thing. We say if to keep them safe. We say it because we know what it will lead to....we once turned a deaf ear to the word. When they are young, the word may work. "No, don't put that bobby pin in the electrical socket." If said with enough volume, we can stop a child in their tracks. But as they get older, we have to disguise the word. Making them feel as if it is their own idea to deny themselves certain activities. But eventually their true desires come out and although we've said no, they do what they want.
We just want to protect them from bumps and bruises. We say no so that they don't get hurt. But eventually it's not just about them getting hurt, it's about them getting a tattoo, a motorcycle, marrying the wrong man or woman, getting a dog/cat/fish or some other ridiculous thing you know will end in disaster or worse yet...a problem you have to fix or take to the pound.
So I wondered today why on earth the brick steps were such a magnet. Why he would not heed my constant No, no, no when I knew he would get hurt. But when he got to the top step he cried out in excitement! Both arms raised above his head! He smiled at me triumphantly and clapped his hands. He made it to the top step. If he had listened to me, he wouldn't have learned. It cost him a bump and a scratch, but he did it on his own and stretched his horizon beyond the limits it had before. They've all got to learn the hard way. Just like me. If I had listened to all the "No's", I definitely wouldn't be where I am today.

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