I said nothing but YES to my children for 24 hours. Though others warned me this would spoil them and cautioned me they’d want to go straight to Target to pick out all the biggest toys, this wasn’t what happened at all. In fact, we had zero meltdowns, no whining episodes, and zero sibling squabbles despite the fact that we did donuts, zoo, beach, pizza, ice cream, Target, and bonfire all in one day.
Here’s what went down: we prepared for YES DAY. They knew it was coming, and I cleared my schedule. We brainstormed about what they’d like to do on YES DAY. The night before, we made a list of desired activities. I put the list on a clipboard, which made it very official. One child propped it by the door so we wouldn’t forget it in the morning.
They woke early, excited to have their YES DAY. We had breakfast and then washed the windows (it was on the list!). Everyone got to spray the windex and use the squeegee. We packed swimsuits for the beach even though it was cold and foggy, and I didn’t ask why or protest, I simply said YES. We stopped for donuts and sat at the bar to eat them. We built sand castles and played in the foggy surf. When it got too cold, we went out to lunch. They ordered cheese pizza and double scoops of gelato. Then we headed to the zoo. We called Papá on our way home and asked him to make tacos, the dinner they easily agreed upon even though we typically struggle to agree on who gets to get into the car first in the morning, let alone menu options. They did want to go to Target, and I did put some boundaries around what they could get. They specifically asked to get something not from the dollar bins, and so we agreed that each child could get something smaller than her arm. It worked! Everyone happily picked out toys under $20, and one child accepted the reminder from her sister that a gigantic remote control car was not smaller than her arm. This was actually significant because we went to Target late- like dinnertime, and the children were entirely agreeable and cheerful. After dinner, hubby and I scrounged for cardboard to build a bonfire because all the wood was wet, and we roasted marshmallows. And then everyone (me included) fell into bed exhausted.
No meltdowns happened all day long. No major cases of the whines. No big blow-ups on my part or the children’s part.
I recognize that our very full day was so easy because I was so focused on the girls. I climbed into their world and let them guide me with their perspective. When they were dying to stop and watch some construction people laying a wood floor on the way to the ice cream shop, we sat on the sidewalk and talked to the workers. When they asked for rainbow sprinkle donuts but then decided they wanted red and green sprinkles only after they’d been served, the donut waitress person happily obliged the request. When they wanted to park on the bottom parking lot of the zoo, I agreed and we started with the petting zoo. When they thought it would be fun to sing twinkle-twinkle to the otters, I sang at the top of my lungs.
Everything we did was focused on their needs, hearts, bodies, and souls. I was truly present, aside from trying to photograph the entire thing because it was so special. I made time, I said yes, and when things got a little wonky like once when they wanted to run through a parking lot, I sat us all down on a curb and we made up a chant about how we were going to walk together. When they were ready, we stood up, chanted together, and walked across the parking lot hand in hand.
I’m not suggesting that we only ever say yes to our children. Of course it is not possible to always say yes. But saying yes for 24 hours made me realize over and over and over again, how often I say no. How often I pull their little hands past construction people building floors, how often I tell them they cannot change their mind after they’ve picked a donut or flavor or activity, how often I make up reasons we cannot park in the lower zoo parking lot simply because I prefer the upper one.
Saying yes for 24 hours gave me the opportunity to share with my children how much I care about them through action. It allowed me communicate clearly, that they are the most important thing. We often say that they highest form of praise is presence, and that the most effective parenting tool is praise.
I learned an awful lot during YES DAY, especially that I love to be able to give all my presence and praise to my daughters. I learned that I need to carve out time and space for YES DAY- time when I expect to only be with my children, following their wonder and curiosity.
My life can get so hectic with work and meal planning and my larger than life laundry pile that never goes away. When things start to get hairy, my heart begins to feel dull and uninspired. The answer for me is always connection, and on YES DAY, I found that connection with my girls. I think when their behavior starts to get hairy, the answer is also to be found in YES DAY. For tricky behavior almost always stems from stress, and for most of our children, the antidote to stress is positive, sweet, kind acknowledgement from the people they love.
I try to give my childen a taste of yes day every day, but it’s not always possible. Sometimes I’m too stressed, or the requests are too outlandish, or there are just too many things to do. But from here on out, yes day is going to be a monthly institution in our family.
It’s the kind of parent I want to be- utterly willing and completely excited to say yes all day long, and climb in gratefully and wholeheartedly into their world as often as possible.
Thank you dear children, for leading me on yes day!