My girlfriend Lisa told me a few months ago about a blog post she read about asking your children if they had a day where you told them they could do anything and you would say yes (within obvious reason) what kinds of things the children would come up with that would surprise you.
I had been thinking about it off and on since she told me about it, because I say no way too much. As Kelly Corrigan so eloquently and aptly put it in Lift, it is my default answer to everything. I can usually imagine before the question is even out of their mouths that it will require something from me, something I don’t want to give right then, probably time, more likely attention. When I say it like this, it sounds so incredibly selfish, I realize, but it is more than that. I mean more than just the attention or time that is required with those requests, those needs of theirs; it is the fact that the majority of what they want to do is unappealing to me. Hey mom, want to play Barbies with us? No. Want to play Legos? Not really. Want to get out our very large craft kit and watch us make a really big mess of the kitchen table for thirty minutes creating a masterpiece that we will then cry buckets over when you throw it away? Gosh, I don’t think so.
And even when it is an appealing option like snuggling on Emma’s bed having “secret story time” as Abby calls it or playing our new favorite trio game of “Zingo”, I still feel myself thinking…just a minute girls, I need to
start some laundry, unload the dishwasher, pick up these toys, finish this game of Words With Friends and then we can play, read, snuggle, be together. And they wait, sometimes patiently, more often than not, with increasing impatience as the “just a minute” turns to ticks of the clock never-ending for them. The moment that I am free, the moment that I am theirs, the moment that I turn my no into a yes, they are all-in with me. They are one hundred percent into whatever we are doing, and I can feel their little love tanks refilling with my presence. With my time. With my attention. Because the truth is that they do not care for a moment what the activity is at all, they only care that they are doing it with me.
I took some quiet time with Emma and asked her what sorts of activities she would be likely to ask me to do if she thought the answer would not be no. Her answers pretty much split my heart wide open in their simplicity and innocence, and in the fact that they all represent things she actually wouldn’t normally be inclined to ask me, but for me they all seemed like things I would have guessed she wouldn’t hesitate to ask.
For instance, she said that she would love to walk with me at the local greenway and just talk, but she knows I am not really into being outside.
Or that perhaps she might ask me to carry down her breakfast dishes when she eats upstairs but she doesn’t because she knows my hands are always full.
She suggested that she might ask if the two of us could have a shopping day together, where we took turns trying things on in different stores and then surprised each other by secretly buying something without the other person seeing.
That was it. Those were her three ideas. The three things that she would only ever be inclined to ask if she didn’t think the answer would be no, because normally in her mind the answer would be no.
Emma does not know it yet, but Saturday is going to be her yes day. And actually, it is going to be mine, too.