"No" and all it's variations (we'll see, not now, maybe later, I don't think that's necessary,etc) become my go-to answers in the summertime. I have four children making requests of me all day long. "Mom, can I have ice cream? For breakfast? Can we go to the zoo even though it's 105 degrees out? Can we take four friends with us and go swimming? In Lake Michigan? Can you make this? Fix this? Do that? Can I take horseback riding lessons? Get a horse? A puppy? A zebra? Can you rearrange my room? Buy me new stuff? Paint my walls lime green?" The requests never end. "No" is just easier, frankly. "Yes" means extra work, extra messes, extra noise and chaos, less actual productivity. As summer has progressed, the tension level in our house has noticeably increased as the kids get bored and tired of being home together all day, everyday. So yesterday I decided I was going to be more about the "yes." And here is some of what happened:
"Mom, can Girl-across-the-street sleep over?" After a sigh, I said yes. The boy whined, because he was even more outnumbered, and has been promised a sleepover that he has not yet collected on, and it wasn't fair. They spent the evening in and out, up and down, couldn't get settled, still awake when we finally went to bed at 1 AM.
"Mom, can you set up the tent for us so we can sleep outside in it?" My initial mental response was, "No- you never stay outside when you try to do that," followed by, "Fine- wait until your dad gets home, and you may ask him if he will do it for you." Then I thought of my dear husband- battling a sinus infection, working hard at the office, his late nights and early mornings, ministering and giving to anyone in need without a second thought. The mental process became, "If I can set up the tent, he won't have to do it." So I ventured outside into the sauna-like humidity and figured out that tent, dripping with sweat and with the "help" of four kids with very definite ideas of how it should go, but who offered very little actual assistance. Then I did it all over again after a freak late afternoon thunderstorm knocked it down. Actually, three soaking wet girls thrashing about trying to get themselves and their belongings out of it knocked it down, which made for quite a good laugh as I watched from the window. Then Mack came home. And spent 30 minutes fixing my tent assembly "mistakes." And my dear husband said grouchily to me, "Don't ever try to put that tent up again. Just let me do it." Deal. Sounds like a plan.
The boy whined that he didn't get to sleep outside with the girls, and it wasn't fair, and "What do you mean it's not appropriate for me to sleep next to a middle school girl who's not my sister?" And there was extensive discussion, bargaining, and petitioning regarding exactly who was going to sleep where. Then the campers needed dessert, and water, and to use the bathroom. Girl-across-the-street needed to run home and say goodnight to her mom. Then the frogs were too loud. Then they were too hot. By 10 PM, everyone was inside, and they discussed, bargained, and petitioned all over again. Which I knew would happen. And I remembered why I'm all about the no.
Then I remembered earlier in the day, when C-Ray brought to me the pieces of a basketball hoop that was supposed to fit over the top of his door. He couldn't figure out how to put it together, could I help him? I looked at the dirt on the floor and the pile of dishes in the sink I was trying to tackle. I said "yes." I slid the plastic brackets into the cardboard backboard and demonstrated for him on the pantry door how it should go. It took less than two minutes. He grinned up at that flimsy little hoop, gave me the kind of boisterous hug that only a little boy can give, and hollered, "Wooo-hooo! Mom, you're a super hero." That "yes" made the hassles from all the other "yeses" totally worth it. And I think I'll keep the cape...