Reason #2 Why I Can’t Say No: I REALLLLLY want to spoil my kids.
It’s been a long day at work. Up since 6am, when I hit the ground running, I turn my key in the door and enter the house. Three of the most beautiful faces in the world come barrelling towards me screaming “MAMA!!” I get tackled with a three-tiered hug, my thirteen-year-old around my neck, 8-year-old around my middle, and the 1-year old somewhere around my knees. It’s my favorite moment of the day. My kids are EXPERTS at the welcome home.
They must know how absolutely adorable and wonderful they are, because soon after, as I fight the urge to collapse, they begin with the requests. Can we go to the park? How about the mall? Can I get on Facebook? Can we buy this new toy from the sale paper I got at school? Can I go to the movies? Bottle? Juice? I need new shoes! Can we ride our bikes? Can I spend the night with Lauren? Can we rent a movie?
My weary body and mind are screaming, “NOT TODAY! NOT NOW! Could everyone just freeze for a while and not need anything from me?” But my heart. My heart says “YES! YES you adorable little miracles! You can go to the park and jump up and down and laugh and enjoy every moment to your heart’s content. You can go have fun with friends, see cool movies, and shop at the mall for all the new stuff. You can get new shoes AND the toy from the catalog from school. And yes, I’ll get you a bottle with any kind of juice you please!”
There is a memory seared into my soul of my oldest, Mackenzie, as she spontaneously physically jumped for joy. The sight literally took my breath away. That look of happiness on my baby’s face is something I will hold dear until I die. I wish I could see that intensity of joy in all three of them every day. My big two, especially, have experienced more sadness than I can stand thinking about. Hurricane Katrina was something I couldn’t help, but the divorce, the moving, the other changes they’ve weathered, I can’t help the deep, awful regret that I caused them that pain. Not on purpose, of course, and in some ways due to choices I made before they were born, but still if I had done differently, maybe they wouldn’t have hurt so much. That idea nags me even though I know on my sane days that I did all I could and even when I messed up, my heart always wanted the best for them. Perhaps I’ll always be making it up to them in some way. Maybe every divorced or single parent feels this way. Maybe every parent period who realizes his or her mistakes have hurt the children would be vulnerable to this kind of guilt.
And I know, really I do, that parenting based on guilt is no way to go. I know that my children need to learn how to cultivate joy in their lives, the kind that doesn’t need to constantly be fed by the newest item or enjoyable activity. I need to teach them how to be happy, how to choose joy, even when they don’t get what they want. And I know, looking into the future, that happy, healthy, well-adjusted adults will be a thrill to me as a mom, as much or more than the smiles and giggles produced by giving them whatever little trinket they are begging for at the moment.
I know that they need to learn consideration, that it’s ok for mom to be too tired sometimes, ok to have to wait for things, ok to just hang around the house sometimes. I know that yeses can be far more damaging than no’s when they produce a spoiled, inconsiderate, selfish, sad individual.
Getting right down to the bottom of things: It’s so tempting to want to say yes because saying no is the harder work. Saying no often requires keeping the big picture in mind, digging in for the long haul, enduring frowns that are temporary in the hopes that my children will emerge with adult smiles that don’t easily fade at the slightest difficulty. I want to say yes because it’s easier, more fun in the moment. It’s selfishness on my part. Completely unacceptable as a parenting style.
And that, my friends, is reason #2 I can’t say no… down for the count.