As a mom of three children now, it often seems like the only word I say is “NO.” I say it when they want a million snacks, I say it when I see them climbing on a piece of furniture they shouldn’t, and I even say it when they are about to hit their sibling. It seems like all I say is no, and I have become a bit desensitized to it by now, however, I remember when I said it for the first time. My first baby was a little girl, and I was a very typical first-time mom, I was overprotective, I was scared, and I literally wanted to give her every single thing she showed the slightest interest in.
I cherished my daughter, I was in awe of this little human looking up at me, and I relished being a mom. Even though I love and adore all of my children, there is something special about your first that you always remember. You were fresh and new, and everything was exciting.
I also had no real reason to say no to her a lot, but I remember that first time I said it, the time when I was serious, and my heart was broken. There are always moments in motherhood that test your patience, they make you think you are going insane, and they break your heart, and this was one of them.
When you are a new mom, especially to your first, you want to spoil them. You don’t ever want to say no, and you want to give them everything they ask for. However, it becomes pretty clear soon that boundaries need to be set. Not only could I never afford to give in to every one of my child’s demands, but I also needed her to learn to hear the word no, and learn to cope with it.
This included a lot of tantrums when she was a toddler, but there is something about that first no that just felt different. It was the moment that she learned that the world was not always a sunny and wonderful place, and I think that is what she was feeling deep inside even if she could not articulate it into thoughts or words.
I think it was the look she gave me. Of course, I have no idea what I even said no to, the memory of that is long gone, but the way she looked at me will never. It is comical in a way, and cute, but it is also sad. She looked at me like I had just ruined her entire world, and I guess I did. Infants and toddlers have no sense of “real problems,” and the issues they have are very real to them even if they are trivial to us grown-ups who have bills to pay.
When I said no, and meant it, she was shocked. Shocked may be an understatement, she was crushed. I could see the clock turning in her head.
She could not understand how I could betray her so much, why I was turning my back on her, and I know this sounds dramatic, but that was the look she gave me. Looking back now, I can see how funny and adorable it really is, but man it wasn’t funny in the moment. I had said no to her almost her entire life, but always in a joking, loving way. The way you do when they are 4 months old, and grab your hair. You are not giving them trouble, or attempting to discipline them, but giving a cute and simple “no no.”
My daughter is now 6 years old, and she has heard no multiple times every single day, I don’t even think twice about it now, but that is not how it was in the beginning.
I also noticed that the more children I had, the less saying no bothered me, because now it is a case of survival. I have to say no to my children, because if I don’t, then not only would my house be a mess, my bank account would be empty, and my children would be running my home. They need to hear no, just like we all do. It is how they learn what boundaries are, and it teaches them to say no when someone tests their boundaries.
There is power in saying no, and even though it was incredibly hard to see that look in my daughter’s eyes when her mom was “mean,” and said no, I now understand the purpose that it serves.