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My kids can say it. Why can’t I?

October 17th, 2004 · 2 Comments

note: written 10/15

It’s been a busy week in an unusually busy season for our family. Between now and BloggerCon, our family calendar is crazy. (Posts may stop appearing for a while.) In an attempt to make life easier for myself in the days to come, and in a bit of illogic, I tried to accomplish as much as possible in preparations this week.

Wednesday and Thursday the girls and I spent getting the van serviced and prepared for winter…and – I confess – trying to find an outfit for me for BloggerCon. We’ve been eating trail mix, cheese sticks and granola bars on the road, crumpling wrappers into bags, drinking juice from boxes, going from place to place and playground to playground. The work for the car – and the wardrobe – has taken more from me and our family than I had thought it would.

Last night the kids woke up two or three times. Not ill, thank God, but crying over lost blankets and “crusty noses”. Then we all overslept and I had to hurry everyone along in order to make it to our planned playdate this morning.

For weeks we’d saved the date on the calendar hoping to see each other. We haven’t gotten together with these friends in months and another playdate a couple weeks ago had been cancelled. The kids especially were anticipating the fun.

Yet I should have cancelled the one this morning. I thought about it. With all that’s happening, it would have made sense. However I wanted to try to see them so I continued with our plans, calling ahead to apologize for our tardiness and tiredness.

When we arrived, my friend warned us that they – and their home – had been exposed to a nasty stomach bug (she had just learned this from her ill friend). The choice was clear: we can’t afford to get sick. Even if we didn’t have a busy schedule for the next three weeks I probably would avoid such a violent virus.

It was hard to leave. I had wanted to spend the time with her, and so did our kids. My lacrymal ducts have loose release and I started to cry, causing my poor friend concern. It was only my own frustration, tired from the morning push out the door, and disappointed from the cancelled visit.

And alsoa bit of internal “I-told-you-so”. I had thought about cancelling the playdate anyway. I knew what my own advice to myself would be: just say no. Simplify. Pick up the phone and say “I’m sorry…”

But I had rebelled and refused. I didn’t want to do it. Yet Fate or some higher power, knew what we needed…and saw that we got it…

Going home was what the doctor ordered – or rather what we needed. We sat on the floor and read books, something we hadn’t done in days although it is our normal morning routine. Quiet and simple. Delicious.

The whole week has been an exercise in seeking simplicity and selecting what is necessary. One night I told Ted I felt like “Central Control” for too many situations, overwhelmed by obligations. The pace of life for us right now is unusual and I am not used to running at this speed. I’m trying to do what I can to slow it down.

I have been realizing how I need to say “no”. I’ve been realizing how I need to let go. I need to stand up for the times I need to slow down. But there’s something about saying “no” that is difficult for me to do.

By afternoon I had had time to look at a few blogs. danah boyd’s post spoke to me a new word: starts with ‘n’ ends with ‘o’

But i’m definitely cracking under the weight of what i’ve committed to. There’s nothing that makes me feel more guilty than flaking, yet i flake because i’m avoiding a more fear-driven action: having to say no. I want to be involved in everything, i want to be helpful to everyone; i want to be social and a workaholic. Much to my dismay, i cannot take on anything more for a while so i’m trying to learn the lesson my mother tried to learn 15 years ago. Of course, i don’t think that my mother succeeded.

(Yet another reason why I would like to meet danah…!)

As I’ve aged I’ve become more flaky, as I have started to realize my own limitations and the limits my young family can handle. Sometimes they sneak up on me and I end up cancelling last minute. But I want to do it all. I want to help people. I want to give. I want to plan and coordinate activities. I want to cook gourmet meals and wear wild wardrobes. I don’t want to say no.

One of the first words most kids learn to say is “no”. Elisabeth started to say it this summer, and now it is one of her most common expressions as if she is compensating for the two years when she couldn’t say it. Why is it so easy for my children to say it but so hard for me?

I fear disapppointing people. I fear anger. I fear loneliness and rejection. I fear my simpler identity. I’d rather race horses and ride roller coasters than risk letting down those I like and love…or looking long and hard at my own reflection.

In some sense then, I am afraid I am appreciated for what I can do. I fear failure. I feel guilty when I don’t participate, and I feel guilty when I do.

Kids say “no” in their immaturity. Think of two year old temper tantrums. It sounds selfish to say it.

But there is a maturity to knowing oneself well enough to set limits. There is maturity in respecting each other enough to let go, even as a community, of what cannot be accomplished. There is wisdom in realizing that I have to be filled in order to give, that thinking of myself is not necessarily selfish.

As I finished reading danah’s post, I began to feel emboldened to begin to say “no” more in my life and I started to think of situations where I could learn to speak up and step back.

Then the phone rang. It was my friend, calling to see how I was doing at the end of the day. I was grateful. She had been thinking about me and planned a way to help: she insisted she wanted to make dinner for our family on Saturday night.

No. I didn’t say no.

Tags: journal

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 zephoria // Oct 17, 2004 at 3:42 pm

    Good luck with the no-saying… i’m still failing miserably.

  • 2 Jim Thomsen // Oct 19, 2004 at 9:54 pm

    Now I feel REALLY guilty for having intruded on your time last Friday!