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A 'Yes' Day

Thursday morning Maddie and Cora were both
fighting over some toy or some such before school; Maddie had
something and Cora was trying desperately to do the right thing and
thus kept saying, “Please, Maddie, PLEASE may I have
it?” And Maddie pulled one of her specialties –
prevaricating – and kept up a constant stream of “Well,
let me think . .” and “Well, it’s just that . .
.” until I was about to pop a vein.

Finally, I abruptly said, “Right. Ok, I officially declare
today a ‘yes’ day. That means that any time someone
asks you for something or asks you to do something you have to say
‘yes’. OK?”

The girls looked at me warily, turning the edict over in their
minds for loopholes or potential land mines. “You, mean,
ANYTHING we ask of you, you have to agree to?” Maddie asked

“Yes,” I said thoughtfully,
“with these ground rules: anyone in this family has to say
‘yes’ to anything asked as long as it’s not
breaking another family rule, or physically impossible, or not
fitting within a realistic timeframe, or unrealistic in some other

The girls looked at each other and then nodded, seemingly confident
in their abilities to get around those restrictions. “Ok,

“So Maddie, may I please have my toy back now?” Cora
asked, and Maddie nodded glumly before saying, “Oh BOY this
is going to be a long day.”

I want desperately to get my girls out of their selfish mode
– to think of others before themselves, to serve everyone in
the family first, to have a bit of self-sacrifice be the default
mode of their personalities. I pointed out several small ways I
serve them before myself during the day: giving Cora the last
pancake even though I would’ve been happy to eat it; reading
a book with them rather than having five minutes to myself, that
sort of thing. Of course, I didn’t say, “I will do this
even though I don’t want to because you are my child and I am
required to sacrifice for you. But do you see how much I wanted to
do something else instead?” Rather, I’d say, “I
was planning on some quiet time, but you’ve asked me so
nicely I’d love to snuggle and read a book with you!
Especially since today is a ‘yes’ day!”

I know that at the beginning of the day, thoughts of manipulation
danced through their heads: I’ll ask my sister for her
favorite necklace! I’ll ask Mommy for six donuts! But when
the realized that it worked both ways - an ill-gotten necklace
could be reverse-requested instantly, for instance – well,
then, they settled into the spirit of the day rather neatly. At
dinner time, for instance, Cora didn’t want to finish her
bowl of food, and Maddie asked if she could have the rest.
“Yes, you can!” Cora said sweetly. “And not just
because today is ‘yes’ day!”

We’ll definitely do more ‘yes’ days in the near
future; I want this to become an everyday habit for them, for it to
be our fallback position as a family. And I see glimpses that
it’s already made the girls more thoughtful.

Last night as we walked up the stairs to put the girls to bed, Cora
called down, “Mommy, could you please bring up my bear for
me?” “Yes, I can, sweetie!” I said, and went back
for her bear before heading up.

“Mommy,” Cora asked when I got there, “Did you
say ‘yes’ because today is a ‘yes’ day, or
because you love me?” I smiled at her. “A bit of both,
you know, baby. Most of the time I want to serve you BECAUSE I love
you! My heart always wants to say yes to you!”

Cora grinned. “So sometimes ‘yes’ can mean
‘I love you’! Hey, ‘yes’ is just another
way to say ‘I love you’! I want to try that!” And
she ran off.

How quickly they learn!


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