One of my favorite books is a book by Judy Logan called Teaching Stories. In it, she recounts her work teaching adolescents with collaboration, grace, and patience.
I remember reading it before I became a parent and being particularly drawn to the chapter where she decides to “say yes whenever possible.” It’s a radical thing for teachers to do, since saying no seems like it’s embedded in the job description.
But saying yes whenever possible may be even more challenging as a parent. No is such a default setting. But listening to the Alfie who sits on my shoulder (mind your no’s!) and channeling my inner Play at Home Mom (yes you can!), I try to question when I do say no and say yes whenever I can.
I felt pretty good about this “say yes whenever possible” philosophy. That is, until my kids became tweens and teens.
We’ve had some big milestones lately… receiving texting privileges, getting a cell phone, walking into town alone or with friends, etc. I’ve tried my best to look at their age, their personalities, and their development, and to continue to “say yes whenever possible.”
But even with those intentions, I tend to be on the later side of saying yes, at least according to my kids. “EVERYONE has a cell phone but me! EVERYONE can text but me!” Apparently everyone’s moms are a lot more trusting than I am.
I’m ok with that, because what I’ve realized is that my new mantra is really to “say no for as long as possible.”
Because once you say yes, you’re in it. Your tween is in the world of texting, or your teen is riding in cars with teen drivers. And once they’re in, it’s tough to go back. So my new advice to myself is to delay those big yeses.
For me, these big tween/teen milestones aren’t just about when our kids are ready, or when EVERYONE is allowed to do something. For me, it’s about when we as a family are ready to support and tackle and deal with the fallout of new developmental privileges. Because with these things, there is always fallout.
So as my children begin to age, my yes’s have turned into no’s. Or at least delayed yes’s. “Yes you can have a phone…. next year.” My apologies to Judy and Alfie and the PAHM folks, but it’s what works for us right now.