What I Learned About Saying Yes, from a Week of Saying No.

What I Learned About Saying Yes, from a Week of Saying No.

Two months ago, I told you that this summer I was changing my default setting to “yes.” I wanted to give you an update on how it’s been going.

It’s been wonderful.

What I’ve said Yes to this summer

We’ve had so much fun as a family this summer. We’ve spent gobs of hot summer days cooling off at the pool. We’ve stayed up too late so we could all walk the dog after the temperature finally dipped. We’ve hosted a barbecue; we’ve launched our first family fireworks.

And my husband and I have been quicker to say yes, too. We’ve made travel plans we would have passed on some years. We’ve been to weddings and get-togethers; we’ve headed out for dates instead of staying in. We’ve said Yes.

Making it easy to say Yes

You know what else we’ve done? We’ve read and read and read. I’ve ripped through my summer reading list and my kids have listened to Little House and Ramona over and over again. My toddler’s watched Thomas the Tank Engine more days than not. My kids have filled their summer sketchbooks, and I’ve spent countless hours happily plunking away on my laptop.

I’m an introvert; so are two (maybe 3?) of my kids. I’m convinced we’ve all been able to say Yes so much this summer because we’ve built downtime into our days. We’ve created a home environment that allows for resting and refueling, as well as making memories.

My week of saying No

I didn’t realize just how well we’d done with the structure of our days until we went on vacation last week. Suddenly, I found myself saying “no.” All week long. 

My girls have food allergies. At home, this isn’t a big deal. I’ve stocked our pantry with things they can eat; we don’t focus much on what they can’t have. I’ve created an environment that makes it easy to say Yes. But last week meals were challenging, to say the least. We ate out daily, and we shared meals with others who aren’t accustomed to dealing with food allergies. My default setting for mealtimes and snacks quickly turned to “no.” (And if you’ve been around young kids, you know that “mealtime” and “all the time” are synonyms.)

I said lots of No because the foods would make them sick. It was the right call: I knew it and my girls knew it, but it didn’t matter. I hated saying so many Nos.

Getting to Yes

After last week’s vacation, I’ve been thinking a lot about how to structure our environment–home and away–in ways that allow me to say Yes.

And this summer I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to say Yes. It takes the right environment. And it’s up to me to create it.

How do you create an environment of Yes?

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  1. Both of my parents grew up in financially poor families. One of my aunts said to my mom after they were adults, “You know, I can’t remember a single thing we really wanted that we didn’t get.” (Skipped beat.) “Of course, we knew what to want.”

    That has become something of a family proverb. Creating a home atmosphere where everyone knows what to want must be one of the biggest keys to being able to say yes most of the time. Small example, when at the grocery store I don’t think one of my kids ever asked for Koolaid, because somehow they knew “we are not a Koolaid family.” Stuff like that sort of becomes part of the family DNA, so there is no struggle about it. Same with lots of unspoken family practices or “rules” that no one recognizes until a visitor unknowingly “breaks” one — like throwing a used bath towel on the floor in a household that always hangs theirs up to dry.

  2. Oh, how I love this! Yes, yes, yes. As an example, one of the reasons I rarely have cookies in the house. I don’t want to always have to say “no, that’s enough.” Then when we do have them I relish in the ‘yes.’

    I loved this reminder as we fall into a new routine with my husband starting his school semester. I need to think carefully about the home environment!

  3. Jennifer H says:

    I can relate to Lori’s childhood. I never even realized we wer financially strapped.

    In my house, instead of “no’ when asked if my child can have junk food or dessert, I ask what he’s eaten already that day. Since I have trained (brainwashed) him on the food pyramid since he was 2 1/2, he will start listing his day and then realize that maybe he hasn’t eaten enough fruit (or whatever) yet. Most times, he will then ask if he can have an apple (or whatever) first and then whatever treat or snack food he was asking for. It makes it much easier to say “yes”.

  4. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. As I’m saying no, I think, “Why am I saying no to this? Is it really wrong, or does it just bother me, or am I just in a bad mood…?” I think I say “no” to my son a lot more than he needs to hear it! Thanks for this post!

  5. Ana says:

    Anne I love this so much & am going to remember it for when my kids are older. Right now, I’m balancing the yes & no as I’m trying to teach my wild animals how to be human…once they’ve got that down (by 3? 4?) we can relax! But I also like how you are saying yes for yourself, too…that I can do right now!

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  7. Jamie says:

    Having back-up plans has been one of the best things I’ve found to help me say yes.

    Things like keeping a few meals ready to go in the freezer and a box of Kind bars in the cabinet and purposely setting up my wardrobe so that I can easily find and grab clothing for any occasion that I’m comfortable and confident in eliminate my biggest worries about unplanned activities.

    The other thing that really is big for me is reminding myself of all the times I wasn’t able to say yes – my husband deploys often, sometimes for months at a time. There are weeks where I’d gladly say yes to anything just to have time with him. From that perspective, it becomes a lot easier to embrace the unexpected while we can!

  8. I’ve been saying no to so much this past year (requests to lead praise & worship, volunteering for areas of ministry outside of my gifting, and even taking on lead roles in areas that are within my gifting) because the nature of mothering young children makes it so that I never know if I’ll be able to complete my promised task or fulfill my commitment, because I want to channel most of my energy into writing right now, and because I get mean when we are hurried and we hurry when I say yes too much. When I’ve made exceptions and crowded the schedule, I grit my teeth and remind myself of why I am so protective of our time. I love how 1 Thessalonians 4:11 says it, “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you.”

  9. Ginger says:

    Thanks for tweeting out this “from the archives.”

    Last summer, I spent a week at my college roommates house with her two small children while her husband has to be away on a mission trip. She practiced something that I’m trying to remember.

    Whenever asked “Can I pick up a rock?” or “Can I have a cookie?” she would answer “Yes, you can get a rock after church so that you won’t have to carry it around in children’s class with you.” or “Yes, you can have a cookie after you’ve had your dinner so that your appetite isn’t spoiled.”

    I called it her “Yes…when.” method. She wasn’t constantly saying “Don’t pick up that rock” but subtly teaching them why we do things responsibly.

    We can all benefit from this lesson. Yes, I can have dessert, when I’ve filled my body with the fuel it needs primarily. Yes, we can buy a new car, when we’ve saved for it. Yes, I can write that novel, when my children are sleeping through the night.

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