A few weeks ago while getting ready for work and daycare on a Tuesday morning I realized that my nearly-four-year-old “big boy” was extra clingy, extra whiny, and overall extra needy. The child who the week before had proudly shown off the fact that he could put on his own shoes AND socks was now a mess of “I can’t”s and “Please help me”s, said in that type of drawn out whine that tends to grate on every nerve that I have in my body. It was a frustrating, irritating morning until I stopped and realized that on top of working late several nights over that week, I had also been traveling out of town for my job the past two full weekends in a row.
Facepalm on my part….my kiddo wasn’t cranky, or tired, or needing discipline.
He was needing ME.
As much as I wanted to call in sick and scoop my kiddo up immediately, my job doesn’t easily allow for that degree of flexibility, so I resolved to dedicate the next day (my day off) solely to quality time with Aaron, to being present, and most importantly, to saying “Yes.”
The next day we woke up, had a leisurely breakfast, and played Duplo blocks for an hour in our pajamas. I turned my cell phone off and put it in a drawer so I wouldn’t be tempted to look at it or respond to the buzz of a notification. We took a quick trip to the grocery store to attend to the one thing that really did need to happen that day (milk doesn’t buy itself, you know) and then made it to gymnastics class and open gym play time. Home again where I spent the rest of the day responding to as many of his requests as possible with “yes.” Yes, we can have a dance party in the living room. Yes, we can paint a picture for daddy at the kitchen table. Yes, we can play in the kitchen sink with bubbles and water, no matter how big a mess it makes. Yes, we can play trucks. Yes, let’s be explorers and turn out all the lights in the house and run around with flashlights. Yes, we can bake banana muffins. Yes, you can lick the batter. Yes, we can watch Daniel Tiger after dinner. Yes, you can have another story. Yes, I can snuggle with you five minutes more before bedtime.
It is true that these kinds of days cannot happen all the time, however much I would like them too. We all have responsibilities that are important and need accomplished. Work, school, household chores, and other responsibilities can be put on hold at times but do eventually need tending to, lest we achieve a stack of dishes the size of Mount Everest on the counter. In terms of household productivity, this particular Wednesday fell far short of what I usually aim to get accomplished. In saying “Yes” to my child, I said “No” to laundry, to bathroom cleaning, and to grading papers for the online class that I teach. We didn’t pick up our toys from one project before starting on another, so the house was a fair disaster by the end of the day.
But I accomplished something far greater that day.
I filled my child’s love cup up to the brim, and he in turn filled mine, and helped me to remember that there are things in life far more important than sparkling bathrooms.
In this busy holiday season there are many people who talk about and write articles about the importance of saying “No.” It is difficult to do with all the baking, shopping, parties, noise, and events that seem to clamor into our lives and compete for our attention. I do my best during this season to take time to slow down, be with family, and say “no” to as much of the commercial noise as possible. In fact, my favorite Advent poem (found here) is by Mary Ann Jindra and contains the line “Lord, help me to do less this busy season; go less; stay closer to home; kneel more.” However, I have never before really taken a moment to consider the importance of also remembering to say YES to the things that do matter. Time with family. Quiet. Contentment. Silly afternoon dance parties. Banana muffins.
As you plan out your holiday events I encourage you to continue to give yourself the permission to say no to the unimportant things in life. Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, and New Years will come and go whether or not you have a perfectly decorated house or if all the presents are covered in department store quality wrapping. However, I challenge us all not to forget to give a resounding and purposeful “yes” to those things that ARE important, even when they take some time away from other things in our lives. Say yes to a conversation with your grandmother about her favorite holiday traditions. Take a second to say yes to the bell ringer who asks if you have any change for the red kettle as you bustle into the grocery store. Say yes to your parents who call at a less than opportune time, for no particular reason except that they missed your voice. Say yes to your child who needs your help to make a Christmas craft to leave on the table for Santa. In the end, these are the things that fill our hearts with love and memories, and shape our lives into something really worth living.