After reading an article about Jennifer Garner’s annual ‘yes day’, I felt inspired to give this concept a try in our household.
I have always tried to practice positive and mindful parenting, but recently I have noticed that my “yeses” are few and far between. Sadly, it seems that “no” feels like a much more natural response—especially when you have a 7-year-old boy who has little inhibition when it comes to his requests.
While I am not one to typically follow the lead of a celebrity, the thought of a day of saying “yes” sounded somewhat liberating. Constantly dismissing my child’s never-ending questions and requests, no matter how ridiculous they may seem, can leave us both feeling defeated.
Once I decided to embark on this challenge, I sat down with my calendar to find a day that would be conducive to 24 hours of “yes”.
I also laid out a few ground rules to ensure we didn’t drain our bank accounts or end up at Chuck E.Cheese (because that is where I draw the line).
A week later, at 6:30 am, our “yes day” began—starting with a massive amount of snow which meant we were likely homebound.
My husband informed me that he would be conveniently spending most of the day on his school campus—his way of telling me that he would not be participating in our fun little activity. So, it was just the two of us.
I’m not sure if I was following the “rules” or not, but I decided not to announce that it was “yes day,” so my son was not aware of what was to come—although, knowing him, I was certain he would figure it out soon enough.
By 9:15 am: My son had already had a cupcake, watched two hours of Teen Titans Go, ate 12 cough drops (I learned these are pretty much candy), played floor hockey in the living room, and taught me how to play a game called ‘garbage,’ which we proceeded to play 10 times in a row.
By 10 am: I was ready for a nap and was guzzling down my third cup of coffee.
“Can I have some coffee, Mom?”
Hesitantly I agreed and my 7-year-old and I shared in the creamy deliciousness. Weird.
As the day went on, the requests got more and more frequent and I found myself becoming increasingly reluctant with each “yes.”
“Want to play another round of go-fish, Mom?”
“Mom, can we make a fort in my room?”
“Mom, can we play hide-and-seek?”
“Mom, can I eat this chocolate muffin…in your bed?”
“Mom, can we go get ice cream?”
“Uhh you sure you want to walk to get ice cream in the snow?”
Phew, dodged that one.
The afternoon continued on like this and by 4 pm I realized my son hadn’t had any real food and we were about to start our eighth game of go-fish. We had literally played games and ate junk food from the moment we got up and it was clear it wasn’t ending anytime soon.
I was surprised by how tired I felt without having ever left the house and by 5 pm I was texting my husband with my own request…“DO NOT COME HOME WITHOUT WINE!”
At 9 pm, after agreeing to let my son go to sleep an hour later on a school night, I tucked him in and read three stories per his requests.
Finally, after what seemed like our own Groundhog Day time-warp, I climbed into bed and despite my exhaustion, could not fall asleep (likely due to all of the sugar I had consumed throughout the day.)
As I laid there trying to quiet my mind, I started to reflect on the day.
I realized that aside from all of the out-of-control requests for sweets, most of what my son asked for was my time.He wanted to play with me and he wanted my undivided attention, and when he got it, he was the happiest I’d seen him in a while.
I realized that in my day-to-day attempt to keep the household running smoothly, the furniture clean, and our schedules on track, “no” had become an automatic response.
I realized that although I love that connection time with my son, I often don’t make it a priority as I get lost in my to-dos.
I realized that it took committing to a day of “yes” and gritting my teeth as the words came out, to recognize my son’s true creativity and imagination.
Although I strongly believe there is still a place for the word “no,” this long, exhausting day taught me that “yes” is powerful and that it is something I have truly struggled with as a parent.
I want my child to have space to explore his passions without constant limitations that are often enforced simply to try and control what feels like chaos.
What I learned from this day is that incorporating a few more “yeses” can make all the difference to my son.
Although cupcakes for breakfast is not going to become the new norm, I can easily curb my responses to show him I do value our time together and his desire for more than what I’m currently giving him.
Not every day can be a “yes day” and not every response felt appropriate to answer that way—but when my son looked at me with true excitement and the biggest smile and said, “Mom, this is so much fun isn’t it?”
“Yes” is exactly the response I wanted to give.