Last night my husband worked a side job and didn’t get home until the kids were heading off to bed, which left room for my attention to be fully on my kids…and we had a blast! While I made dinner they hung out with me in the kitchen. We goofed around and laughed a lot–dinner was a little late getting on the table, but no one was complaining. As I was serving up plates the kids decided we needed to have a “fancy” dinner. I’ll confess, my first instinct was to say no. Not because it was a bad idea or because I didn’t want to, but because it was more dishes to wash, more time spent around the table when I had so much to get done; I was already so behind on my To-Do list. But one look at their hopeful faces, already planning out how they were going to pull off the fanciest dinner they’ve ever had (even if their stir fry wasn’t exactly fine dining), and I couldn’t bring myself to say no. So, I smiled my biggest smile and said, “Yeah, sounds like fun!”
They set the table, poured their milk into the good wine glasses that never get used, lit the Apple Spice candle on the table, turned off the lights, put on some classy dinner music (which really sounded like terrible elevator music), and we gathered around to pray for our very fancy meal. I have to admit, it was fun. The kids made a toast about every sixty seconds, followed by gentle clinking of their glasses, and they even folded their napkins into triangles because “it was more fancy that way.” I’m pretty sure I even saw my oldest son, who is almost 13, trying to hold his fork with his pinky finger extended in the air. (But don’t tell him I saw that; he is a very mature almost-teenager, you know, and it wouldn’t be good for his image.) 😉
After dinner I left the dishes in the sink and we all piled onto our queen size bed to watch Just for Laughs videos on YouTube. I’ve gotta tell you, it was one of the best nights I’ve had in a long time. All too soon it was their bedtime, so we prayed, got into our pj’s, and I did something that I, regrettably, haven’t done in months–I went to each kid’s room, sang for them and tucked them into bed. I fell into bed last night weary from a long day, dishes still in the sink, crumbs still on the table, laundry still in a pile on the floor (again), but with a soul-deep sense of contentment.
I’m so glad I said yes to them.
When I think back on all the times I’ve said no (“I’m too tired to climb the stairs to tuck you in tonight.” “I don’t feel like riding bikes today honey, maybe tomorrow.”) I’m filled with sadness for lost opportunities, memories that never got made, and time we can’t get back. I’ve decided from now on I’m going to say yes a lot more often, even when I don’t feel like it. I encourage you to do the same.
Say yes to silly dance parties in the kitchen, even when you’re trying to make dinner. Say yes to a bike ride on a beautiful day, even when you’re exhausted from a long day at work. Say yes to kisses and hugs, always–and don’t let go until they’re ready. Say yes to candle-lit dinners and milk in wine glasses because it makes them feel grown up and special. Say yes to spending time with them, even when you have 20 things on your To-Do list. Say yes to snuggling, even when the dishes are piling up in the sink. Say yes to baking cookies together, even when it means yet another trip to the grocery store for more eggs. Say yes to tucking them into bed, even when you want so badly to just say good night and fall into your own–you never know when that last time you tucked them in will end up being THE last time you tuck them in. Say yes to silly jokes, nonsense conversations, and making up silly songs, even when you are craving quiet time. Say yes to playing with your kids, even when your energy level is zero.
Just say yes. Because these years go by so fast and you can’t get them back. What do you want your kids’ memories of their childhood to be–of you saying “no, not right now,” or of you being actively involved in their lives, making an effort to be present with them, engaging with them and having fun with them? What do you want your memories to be when they’re grown? What do you want your relationship with them to be? These years when they’re young, that’s when you make it happen. You’ll either create close bonds or you’ll create distance.
Of course there are times when you have to say no for their own good. I’m not saying always say yes or let them always have their way. Healthy boundaries and rules are important. But so is laughing, playing, experimenting, discovering, being silly, listening, and nurturing. So when it comes to those things…say yes. I guarantee you’ll be glad you did. And so will they.