Sometimes parenting is about embracing “yes” instead of always saying “no.”
Without warning, the autumn skies turned black as the heavens opened up in the land of the long white cloud. The subtropical raindrops began hammering down as my son pushed open the heavy glass door and enthusiastically sprinted out onto the deck to run around in the wet.
My automatic reaction was to shout, "Stop! Don't slip! Come back inside, you'll get cold!”
That’s the sort of thing a good mother would say, right?
But something stopped me. Maybe it was because it was my birthday. Or maybe it was seeing the wet smile on my son's happy face. Whatever it was, in that moment I chose surrender. To say YES instead of NO. And so I joined him.
Within seconds we became completely soaked through. The feeling of wet clothes against my body reminded me of a younger, more carefree version of myself. For me, parenting has been an unprecedented catalyst for self-awareness; my son is a metaphorical mirror reflecting an image that most of the time I like, but sometimes I don’t.
In our saturated clothes, I wondered when it was that I started to lose my carefree self...
Where was the girl who enthusiastically jumped out of a plane when she was 19? Who wasn’t afraid to take risks?
A girl who lived by the mantra that we regret the things we don't do more than the things we do. That we regret the chances we pass up in this one precious life of ours. In short, the girl whose default was to say YES.
Like most of us, I tend to be too hard on myself and I acknowledge the boundless promise of youth naturally fades a little as we "grow up." Yet in asking these questions and in choosing to say “yes” instead of “no,” I feel emboldened as I realize my carefree self is still there. As George Bernard Shaw so eloquently said, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”
My son constantly tries to shake the fun-loving child inside of me from her slumber; urging me to meet him in his magical world as he yearns to connect in the best way he knows how. So, as parents why has our default setting become NO?
I wonder if it’s because it's easier to resist. To push back. To be the responsible adult. The parent. To make logical, responsible decisions as we worry about what somebody else, even strangers, may think of us. While I'm the first to admit we can’t say YES all the time, I'd bet most of us can say it a lot more than we do. So my message is a simple one: Let’s choose to say YES.
Let's eat ice cream in the bath. Dance in the rain. Let our kids stay up after dark occasionally to watch a movie or wait for the stars to appear. Let's play. Let's get wet and dirty and messy together. Let's invite fun. Build connection. And make insanely happy deposits in our children’s memory banks.
Let’s plunge into the deep wells of positivity our children’s innocent requests promise to sprinkle our lives with and invite moments into our days that nourish our life-affirming connection with them.
Saying yes reclaims a piece of the fun-loving child hibernating inside all of us and importantly, it raises children who will welcome life. Who will say yes to opportunity. Who will be brave, courageous and fearless.
I'm far from fatalistic, but I firmly believe that our kids are sent to challenge us to be better people; to shine a light on the inner work we need to do, daring us to reclaim our childlike wonder and see life anew. The only way we can do that is by feeling more and thinking less as we step outside our comfort zones and dance in the rain.
A version of this post originally appeared on Raised Good.