There is a commercial out that shares a mom’s shopping experience with her grade-school aged boy. As she shops he passes through the aisles asking for something outrageous from the warehouse store. Each time it is met with a melancholy “No.” Until the end when he chooses a package of hotdogs that Mom finally agrees to say yes to.
“In a world filled with no, it’s nice to say yes”
This scenario is all too true for this mother to three girls, ages 4, 6, and 12. I have personally designated my shopping outings to the store to be childfree. For me it’s a no brainer, kids plus grocery store, shopping mall, and Paper Source inevitably equals “Can I?” “No.” “Can I?” “No.” “Can I?” “No.” However, finally, I can endure the experience more, now that I ask that my girls let me know 3-5 things that they “like.” By the end of our time they can choose the one they like best we can take a picture of to add to a gift list. It’s my way of giving them a yes.
I wish it were that easy for the 12 1/2 year old. I wish someone would have told me that the why’s, how’s and can I’s don’t taper off. On the contrary, they increase, and then they expand and then they blast you … right into the past. The past where you were a teenager and said…”My Mom is so lame?! I’ll NEVER be that kind of parent.”
As I grow into parenthood I realize my love for seeing my kids faces light up and feel heard and seen is constantly challenged by the unending amount of No’s that are necessary to keep them safe, healthy, and good company.
We recently, said “yes” to a smartphone. Believe me, I really fought hard to keep my NO! Why invite more girl drama, mean girl conflict, or even worse…boys? Twelve-year-old boys will be able to contact her….directly. Gone are the days of “Hello Mrs. M. May I speak to your daughter, please?” And of course, not to mention the instant access to the unknown unregulated internet highway? It seems like giving my daughter the keys to a motorcycle…on the Audobon…with a map of Kansas City. Holding my heart and screaming…Don’t forget to wear your Helmet!
It would be a good means of communication in case she needs us in an emergency. Bait. Then she asked us for an Instagram account. And…Switch. I instantly shook my head. No. This can’t be a good idea. My husband offered the option that one of us could follow her and if she agreed that she could have an account that is monitored by her parent, then it was innocent enough. After a few weeks of checking in with her entries, we noticed a few harmless interactions and posts that we thought necessary to address. It didn’t seem manageable to make a list of all things she shouldn’t do, so instead we have asked her to be mindful of three simple guidelines before posting. They are simple enough to remember but open enough for us to hold her accountable. And really, they are pretty good reminders for keeping healthy boundaries in most friendships or social encounters, for adults to be good company, too.
1. Ask PERMISSION before posting if it involves another person. If she takes a photo of a friend, show them and ask them if they are okay with it going to Instagram.
2. Be POSITIVE, about herself and others, nothing negative or hurtful.
3. Nothing PERSONAL, no need to share detailed information or carry on conversations that shouldn’t be made public.
Allowing her this privilege has surprisingly become a way for her to express herself in a unique way. Through photography, we have been able to see her loving response to a national crisis, quotes that are meaningful to her, and how some of her friends appreciate her upbeat personality. It has been so far a gift of parenting opportunities, and meaningful conversations with our daughter. I am certain that when those times come to enforce boundaries, rules, and safety that I’ll continue to say no when necessary. I’m just encouraged that as a parent, I can continue to be a giver of yes’s too.
It just takes practice.
Charity Marrone is a creative soul seeking to experience life wholeheartedly, most often discovering first-hand adventure with her gutsy husband, three wildly inspiring fun loving daughters, and one big hearted, mysterious step son. You’re likely to find her avoiding the dishes and laundry, at the dining room table, piecing together reflections from reading, poetry and spiritual writings, and whatever else is on her mind that day through the spiritual practice of making messy art. Collage is her favorite Art form–it is aMaZiNg how forgotten, discarded things can be restored into New Creation, which also reflects how her faith in God encourages her to live into Who she is, as He intends for her to be, which has meant recognizing the brokenness that must occur before the beauty is able to emerge.