Even before I had kids, I kind of figured I would be a strict parent. I like rules; they make me feel safe. But as time has gone on and I’ve gotten more parenting experience, I’ve softened, and I think it’s for the better.
I really like my order and my routine. I like things just so. But generally, this is not how kids function, and I want my kids thriving, not tiptoeing around their mom’s rigidity. I’ve been practicing saying yes to the things that really don’t matter– but what I would have normally said no to before.
The Mural Wall
The best example I can give of this is my son’s “mural wall,” as I’ve come to call it. His bed is pushed against one wall in his bedroom that has four framed vehicle pictures on it. One day, he asked if he could tape one of his drawings up.
It was such an easy ask, but my instinct was to say no. But why? A million of my own reasons jumped out: Because I had already selected framed artwork for that wall. Because adding something to that wall would make it look cluttered. Because I don’t like things out of place, and that was not the place for his drawing. Because it wasn’t even something he had worked hard on or a favorite picture, just a scribbled coloring sheet. Because if I let him put up one, he’d want to put up more. And on, and on, and on.
Like I said, lots of reasons– but none of them were good reasons. So I said yes, and he was thrilled.
As predicted, he’s asked to put more and more drawings up, and the wall is definitely cluttered. He even has wrapping paper with a truck pattern taped up there with his drawings. I get overwhelmed looking at it. It makes me feel like the room is closing in on me. But it’s not my room. I don’t sleep in there. He does, and he loves it.
There was absolutely no reason for me to say no, so I didn’t. I’m practicing saying yes at every opportunity I can without feeling like I’m compromising my own sense of safety and security for our family. I took a page out of Instagram superstar Busy Toddler’s book and ask myself a couple of questions before I answer my kids:
Is it safe for them?
Does it go against anything our family stands for?
Sometimes the answer is no, it’s not safe. We don’t play in the street; we don’t sleep with things around our necks; etc. Sometimes the answer is no, because it’s not what’s good for our family or goes against some of the pillars of what our family believes. We don’t eat sweets all day long because that goes against the eating habits we are trying to teach. We don’t watch that show because I don’t like what it’s promoting. But I find that more often than not, the things my kids are asking for really don’t have any reason for me to say no.
This is why my kids have been sleeping in mismatched pajamas or wearing different shoes on each foot, wearing my (less valuable) jewelry to the store, wearing rain boots out on perfectly dry days, and, of course, why they have a mural wall. For some parents, all these things are easy and obvious “yeses,” but for me, it’s been a lesson in letting go. I’ve learned to loosen up, and truthfully, I still have a long way to go. But we’re getting there, one little “yes” at a time.