It’s no secret that I’ve been an uptight, control freak most of my life. I am a rule-follower, and a schedule abider, and being somewhere on time is very important to me. I sound like loads of fun, don’t I?
When I had my first kid, I was able to control a lot for a while. I was able to swoop in before she shoved playground bark in her mouth, and I was able to whip out the hand sanitizer as soon as she touched something gross in public. I was able to stick with a ridiculous schedule and treat nap time like the sacred time it was and never bend the rules.
Because with one kid, you can control quite a bit. You aren’t outnumbered, and chaos hasn’t hit an all-time high just yet.
Now I have three kids, and 11 years of parenting under my belt, and dang, I still try to control things. My kids still go to bed early and promptly, and it’s still important for me to get places on time, but I find myself finally learning that their feelings and their happiness is more important than following a bunch of silly self-imposed rules.
But I’ve also had to let go even when I wasn’t totally ready because now there are more kids than parents, and sometimes, the best thing to do in a situation is just to say yes.
I have OCD, and so messes and chaos don’t really work for me. So believe me when I say that becoming a yes parent has been hard work for me.
A yes parent let’s them get messy, and let’s them do lemonade stands when it’s 100 degrees and you’re really tired. A yes parent doesn’t care if they want to break out the glitter or help make dinner when it would be so much faster to make it yourself.
Yes parents say “okay” to playing in the rain and building forts even though they know that fort will stay there for two weeks making the living room look like a disaster.
Yes parents say “okay” to all the things that won’t really matter in the grand scheme of things like having to carry 82 Lego bricks in your pockets at the park because you said yes to the toddler that just couldn’t leave them behind.
Yes parents allow friends to come over often and allow bedtimes to be extended once in a while. And they allow for an impromptu trip to the zoo just because their kids asked and the chores really can wait one more day.
Yes parents know what it means to let their kids be little, and go out and join them in smelling the roses and stomping in puddles during a thunderstorm.
It doesn’t mean spoiling your kids and letting them walk all over you. Being a yes parent means knowing that your time with your kids is short.
And one day you might regret the fact that you didn’t loosen up a little and say yes more on the things that didn’t really matter to you, but totally mattered to them.
When you’re a control freak like I am, becoming a yes parent is not easy. It takes deep breathing and conscious effort. It takes reevaluating daily what really matters and telling yourself constantly that the little things really are the big things, so you should just say yes to baking cookies on a random weekday afternoon.
It means learning to put your own hangups aside, and your own need for order for another day, or even another decade when they’ve all grown up and left your nest.
It means learning that saying yes more often might make you all a little happier and leave you finding joy in all the little things that make a huge impact in your kids’ lives.
If you can step back from the anxiety you feel when they try to pour a glass of milk themselves and spill it everywhere, and realize that letting them do it is helping you all grow, then you’ll learn that saying yes is where the magic happens in their childhood. And it’s also where you grow up too.
It’s at this point, when you start to see the magic happen and the memories being made, that your muscles and mind start to relax a bit. You realize you’re doing the right thing for everyone, and it feels good.
Saying yes will help you see the world through their little eyes and really enjoy taking a break to throw rocks into a little creek or watch them blow dandelions in your backyard.
If you can, just breathe and force yourself to see the world the way they do. To them, it’s full of hope and opportunity, even if those opportunities just mean filling up the plastic pool in the backyard when you don’t really want to mess with it or blowing bubbles in the house on a cloudy day.
And my guess is, you might find that not only are they enjoying childhood a whole lot more, but you are the one who is really learning about the magic that can happen with just one little word – yes.