A 'Yes' Day
Friday, 17 February 2012

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 hopefully.

“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 way.”

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

“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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