Without warning the autumn skies turned black as the heavens opened up in the land of the long white cloud.
Subtropical raindrops began hammering down and without a second thought my son pushed open the heavy glass door, enthusiastically sprinting onto the deck to run around in the wet.
My automatic reaction was to shout, “Stop”, “Don’t slip”, “Come back inside”, “You’ll get cold”.
That’s the sort of thing a good mother would say, right?
But something stopped me. Maybe it was because it was my birthday. Or maybe it was seeing the wet smile on my son’s happy face. Whatever it was, in that moment I decided to surrender. To say YES instead of NO. And so I joined him.
Within seconds we became completely soaked through. The feeling of wet clothes against my body reminding me of a younger, more carefree version of myself. Parenting has been my single greatest catalyst for self-improvement; my son is a mirror reflecting an image that most of the time I like, but sometimes I don’t.
In our saturated clothes, I asked myself when it was that I started to lose my carefree self? Where was the girl who enthusiastically jumped out of a plane when she was nineteen? A girl who lived by the mantra that we regret the things we don’t do more than the things we do. In short, the girl whose default setting was YES.
“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.” Vivian Greene
I acknowledge the boundless promise of youth and naivety naturally fades as we “grow up”. Yet in asking these questions and in converting one small NO to a YES, I feel emboldened. Free. Excited. I realize that my young carefree self is still there, every bit as fierce and alive as she once was.
Sometimes she’s hibernating and who better to prod her from her slumber than my son; than this little boy who yearns to connect with the fun loving child inside of me. So why, as parents has our default setting become NO?
Perhaps because it’s easier to resist. To push back. To be the responsible adult. The follow in our own parent’s footsteps. To make logical, responsible decisions as we worry about what somebody else, even strangers, may think of us.
Yet there is beauty to be found in surrender. There is joy to be found in a thumbs up, a sure thing or a let’s do this.
While I’m the first to admit we can’t say YES all the time, I’d bet most of us can say it a lot more than we do.
Let’s reverse the statistics that show the average one year old hears the word NO approximately 400 times a day. During childhood that adds up to 148,000 NO phrases, dwarfing the number of YES or positive phrases.
Because, when we constantly say NO, we risk missing out on moments that nourish our all important connection with our children. Eventually they’ll simply stop trying to connect with us.
We need to acknowledge that sometimes we don’t let our kids to do something simply because it’s inconvenient not because it’s unsafe or impossible. While our needs are valid, it’s so important that we find a balance so our kids feel that their needs are equally valued and considered.
I recently listened to an insightful interview with Heather Shumaker, author of It’s OK to Go Up the Slide, and she gave some brilliant advice on how to say YES more often. Could we say YES by changing either the location, timing or both? “Yes, it’s ok to play with water pistols but let’s do it outside.” “Yes, let’s play hide and seek, right after dinner.”
So, let’s throw out the rulebook and eat ice cream in the bath. Dance in the rain. Stay up after dark with our kids to watch a movie or wait for the stars to appear. Let’s play. Let’s get wet and dirty and messy together. Let’s invite fun. And build connection as we make insanely happy deposits in our children’s memory banks.
Our kids are begging us to join them; to plunge into the deep wells of positivity their innocent requests promise to illuminate our lives with. Saying yes reclaims a piece of the fun-loving child hibernating inside all of us and importantly, it raises children who will welcome life. Who will say yes to opportunity. Who will be brave, courageous and fearless.
I’m far from fatalistic, but I firmly believe that our kids are sent to challenge us to be better people; to shine a light on the inner work we need to do, daring us to reclaim our childlike wonder and see life anew.
And the only way we can do that is by FEELING MORE and THINKING LESS as we step outside our comfort zones and dance in the rain.