My daughter had a request. I didn't say no, and I didn't say yes. I said these four words: I would love to. Right away her seven year-old eyes sparkled. You see, my no to yes ratio has been really uneven lately with the no's tipping the balance. There is nothing wrong with the word no. As a therapist I often help people use it and I regularly work with my clients on establishing boundaries. The word no can also be an important piece of parenting, but sometimes in the busyness of life it can also become a knee jerk response, a way to mange stress, a way to disengage and the answer or sentiment too commonly given. In fact, sometimes my daughter would say, “I know you are going to say no but...” The good news is that despite all of this, she still asks. She desires my time, my help, my attention, and wants me. I don't want this to ever stop.
I want to spend time with her, to be less busy and less distracted but I was pushing through stressors with my head down. I was trying to manage life while missing out on it. You see our responses, even if counterproductive, have their reasons. Perhaps the stress of my circumstances had made me quick to build walls. In Hands Free Life by Rachel Macy Stafford, Rachel explains the blessing of being in the moment for your family and for yourself and daily getting your priorities straight stating “to give our most precious commodity, the gift of ourselves, we must let go of all that distracts us from what matters most.” I was challenged to give this gift and so I devised a plan, if something was requested of me from my seven year old daughter, I would be there and I would be all in. So I decided not just to say yes but that I would love to for the next four days.
Did I say it to everything? Yes; pretty much, because 99% of things were easily granted. I remember reading an article about a Mom who introduced a day of yes for her daughter, and even though that in this case her daughter knew her mom had to say yes all day, she found the requests were reasonable and attainable.
Was it easy? Not always. I got tired and felt needs or demands somewhere else. There were times when I had just sat down after getting the kids to bed, was about to relax and a small voice would call out to request water, a snuggle or another tuck into bed. I would smile wearily at my husband, muster up a cheerful I would love to and be up, it was comical, yes, but it was my mission and a rewarding one. From the first time I said it she seemed so happy, probably because she thought I would say no. She didn't seem to notice that my response was being repeated and that I was trying something new she simply seemed to enjoy our moment in the moment over these days. I didn't keep the I would love to indefinitely but it was a great exercise. I became more open to ideas during the process even with my toddlers requests, telling him that I would love to to things that I might have tried to redirect previously. I noticed I was more mindful as I joined in with my daughter's play, kept her company while she did a chore, or read her another story. I had signed up to serve her in this way and therefore I was more accessible and attune to her needs. I also noticed on each of these days with my daughter that so little was being asked of me yet the week before she probably would have gotten a no or a delay for the same ask.
These four days made me very available and perhaps more importantly aware. And both I would like to make a bigger part of each day in our home going forward. Scratch that, I would love to.