Yes and no. Such simple words. Such powerful words.
Yet, why do we have such trouble using them properly?
Why do we say no when we should really say yes? Or say yes when we should really say no?
Or am I the only one who struggles with this problem?
I have a history of not saying no as often as I should, especially when the requests come from our kids. But I've been getting better. I got a lot of help from a parenting class called Say Yes to No (featuring the book by the same name) that I took a couple years ago. One of the lessons the class emphasized was the need to set and enforce limits for children.
I also have a hard time declining requests for help. I am chronically optimistic, so I always think I can find time to help everyone with whatever it is they need help with and still take care of my own responsibilities.
This problem of mine is further complicated by my inability to say yes when other people ask me if I need help. The past two months have taught me a good lesson about saying yes more often.
I came down with influenza two weeks after Daphne was born. My dad called the night I was diagnosed and offered to take a few days off work and come down to help so I could get some rest. I thanked him for the offer, but told him I could manage. And, at the time, I thought I could.
Two days later, the fatigue really started to take its toll. I hadn't showered in days, the house was a disaster and we were out of frozen pizza and chicken nuggets. That night, I found myself in tears wishing I had said yes to my dad's offer.
A week or two later, I had Monika and Daphne with me at the store. We had already taken one time-out from shopping to change Daphne's diaper, we only had a couple items left on the list and Daphne was hungry and starting to fuss. I was getting frazzled and mentally kicking myself for the bad timing of this outing.
That's when we bumped into our neighbors. They hadn't met Daphne yet, so we stopped to chat for a couple minutes. When Daphne really started to fuss, our neighbors offered to help us finish our shopping. Immediately, without thinking, I said, "No, we'll be fine. Thank you, though."
Then, they offered to help again, saying, "Are you sure? We would love to help."
This time, reluctantly, I said yes. So, we finished my list together while I carried Daphne and our neighbor's daughter pushed our cart. I felt a little like an incompetent mother, but our neighbors' help made the difference between completing our shopping trip with a screaming infant and completing our shopping trip in peace. Lesson learned.
Now, I've been reminding myself to say yes when people offer to get the door for me or carry some of the bajillion bags I drag around everywhere or help in any other way. I'm trying to remind myself that I'm human and that I don't need to be Super Mom.
And that, in turn, is helping me realize my own limitations.
I was scheduled to be a guest host at a blogging webinar in the Twin Cities last Wednesday. Daphne came down with a nasty cold on Sunday that kept getting worse by the day. I began to question attending the webinar on Tuesday afternoon, since I didn't think it would be a good idea to leave Daphne with a babysitter for the first time when she was sick.
But, being a chronic optimist, I kept telling myself that I could manage to attend the webinar; I'd just take Daphne with me. It wasn't until 11 p.m. on Tuesday night, after realizing I'd be spending the night in the recliner holding a feverish Daphne, that my common sense finally overruled my optimism.
We all have limits. Two little words, yes and no, when used properly, can help us live within those limits. But sometimes it takes getting hit on the head with a motherhood predicament (or two, or three) to remember those limits.