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Sunday, July 17, 2016

being a YES mom

This summer I've realized how big my kids are getting. It's not just that they are 6 1/2 and 4 years old, with one heading into first grade and the other having one last year of preschool before Kindergarten! It's also that I'm pregnant with our third baby and remembering how it wasn't too long ago that I was pregnant with these two big kids, and my, how time flies.

I find myself wanting to soak it all up. I want to remember everything about our time together right now. 

I recall these feelings as I was pregnant with my second baby and wanting to spend every second with my first, making sure he knew how loved he was and giving him my undivided attention for a little longer before things changed. Partly this summer that's how I feel, wanting my two littles to know that I'm so in love with them, even if I'll be a little distracted and busier this fall when baby #3 arrives.

I have started saying YES more as a result. Not in the pushover, let them do what they want kinda way. No, I still have limits, boundaries and rules, for sure. But in this other way that I haven't realized I'd done in a while. In the way of saying yes with a smile, because, well, what they are asking is so darn cute or simple that if I stop and smell the roses of the busy Mom Day I will see they are just being kids and it's totally OK to savor these moments - even if it makes me more tired or busier or takes me away from my To Do List. 

When he asked to finish his snack on the deck while working on his - whatever that thing is - I wanted to say "No, we eat at the deck or indoor table so we don't get all messy stuff in our food and it's easier for me to clean up that way and then I know you'll actually stop to eat the snack I know you need before you act out." But I said "Sure!" And he loved it. The smile on his face was so genuinely like "wow I have the best Mom ever," I couldn't pass it up. And it was fine. He finished those carrots and we had a mess on our hands, but whatever it took like two minutes to clean up.

When she asked me to go searching for shells and rocks and crabs with her, I'd been sitting in my comfy beach chair, finally in a position that worked for my aching pregnant back, not wanting to move for a solid few moments. I wanted to drink water and eat a snack myself before they came asking for more food. I wanted to stretch out my legs and just be for a minute. Parenting is tiring. I wanted a second. But I said "Absolutely, let's go!" because she was smiling ear to ear when I did and grabbed my hand to say, "Mommy, let's find some treasures today!" I already did... in my sweet daughter.

When he asked if he could take some pictures off my camera, I wanted to say "Um, don't think so, you are clumsy and busy and moving at the fast pace of lightning, you'll surely drop it overboard the boat and I'll lose all the pictures!" But I said "Sure, if you're safe and careful. Let me help you." And he took cool pictures of his sister and of me and the bright white clouds. And my camera survived.

When they wanted me to stop and help them with cartwheels, holding their feet in the air, I was so exhausted and wanted to say "No, work together." But I said yes and helped them and they actually thanked me without me prompting them to do so.

When he begged me five times to go into the splashing kids area at the water park, all I wanted was to sit because we'd had a difficult busy morning packing up for the water park and nobody listening to me. My back was aching, I was hungry and crabby. I just wanted to say "Go, run along, play, I brought you here to play, let me sit a moment!" But after the fifth beg, I realized he was about to give up asking me, and walk away feeling disappointed. I didn't want that. So I got up, waddled into the kiddie area of the water park, and splashed around like some weird fish animal, and my son was ecstatic, telling me to "Watch this, Mom! Check this out! Look, Mom!"

And I couldn't be happier. And it took about 10 minutes of my time, and my back survived and my mood improved. It was a win-win. Aren't we always looking for those win-win moments in parenting when it seems days are long and it's just so hard sometimes? Win-win works for me.

Here's the thing. They are going to stop asking us to help, play, listen, be there, connect. They aren't going to do this forever. The moments are going to slip through our fingertips like the sand in the sandbox that drives us crazy when it arrives on our clean kitchen floors. 

I realized this last winter when my son begged me every night for a "Once Upon a Time Story, pleeeeease Mom." He wanted me to make up silly stories to help him fall asleep. Stories about pirates and ships and dragons and Army men and dump trucks and tractors.

I'd oblige for days on end, and then I got tired of it some nights, especially those long nights when I'd been flying solo with my husband working and I just wanted a break after my own long day working. Especially those nights when they'd fought in the bath tub and didn't listen when I said to clean up after dinner or to put away their clothes on the floor. Especially those nights when I had zero patience left and was feeling the yelling urge rising up inside my chest. I just wanted to say "Um NO, not tonight. I need a break. Just go to sleep." And so I did, several times. And each time I said no to his story request, he looked defeated, sad, disappointed. And then I noticed he didn't ask me a few days in a row and then it was a week of not asking me. And then I realized he was not going to ask because he'd learned that I wasn't going to say yes, so why bother? And we were in jeopardy of losing a great moment that we loved sharing at night if I didn't say yes soon.

There are a thousand requests from our kids in a day, aren't there? Some are annoying. Some are exhausting. Some are normal but we just don't have enough money or time to give in. They want more snacks (especially summer right?!). They want more toys in the store when we're "just running in real quick." They want more bed time stories, a snack in the night or to climb in our beds. We can't possibly say yes every time, because we don't have the stamina and we don't want our kids to be spoiled - and rules are GOOD things, really. 

But there are many things during the day that they are asking us with their sweet little curious inquisitive creative eyes that are harmless, that are helping them grow into these great little people who will someday be independent of us, far too soon than we want to admit. These things like "Help me build a sand castle, please, Mommy?" and "Can you hold me up so I can do a hand stand?" and "Won't you play outside with me, too, instead of doing dishes?" or "Can I have some kitchen bowls to make mud soup today?" There are more of these moments in a day than we even remember, I'm sure, because we're so busy. They're harmless though, simple, easy to fulfill if we stop to find patience for them every now and then.

If we can acknowledge those moments, say yes, not every time, but frequently enough that they know they can keep asking us things, we're going to gain more than we lose. We're going to make them happy, and we're going to smile and feel proud of what we're doing raising these littles. The smile of surprise on their faces when we say "Sure, yes, let's do that," is priceless. 

That's why we don't do it every time, because it's good for them to play solo and with siblings. But when we oblige and pretend we're kids again, even just for a couple of minutes, it is such a delight to them - and I promise it'll be to you, too. 

Be a little more of a YES mom. I've heard this term before, not sure where I found it, but I'm using it a little differently here. 

Say yes more to your children. They are only little once. We won't get this time back. And on those moments when you say no, it's OK, don't feel guilty. Just make sure there are yesses in there along the way to help you both feel happier and more connected. 

We will miss these little requests when they're off to college and out of our homes and rarely calling us or answering our questions with "Fine" and "Nothing." Let's be there now, while we can, while they're ours and here for a while longer. Just say yes. 

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