Translating a mom’s ‘maybe’
We were in a store recently when my 9-year-old son found some adorable fuzzy moose slippers that he thought he couldn’t live without. “Pleeease, Mom, can you buy them for me?” The slippers were cute and he did need a pair, so I said maybe.”She said maybe!” my 7-year-old daughter said gleefully.”Yea, maybe,” my son pouted. “That means no.””It does?” she pondered.”Yea, maybe means no way, not today.””Ahh. Darn it,” she said and patted her brother on the back.”Wait a second. I thought maybe meant, well, maybe,” I said as my heartbroken kids padded away from me, moose antlers flopping forlornly.It occurred to me then that our kids have become conditioned to hear “no” because, well, frankly because we say it a lot.Consider the following exchange: “Mom, can I go to the movies?””No.””Can I have a soda?””No.””Can we have pizza for dinner?””No.””Can I go do homework?””No – hey wait a second!”Trick question.My mother always told me to say “yes” as often as possible to my kids and save “no” for the really big stuff, like tattoos and dating at 13. Like most parenting experts who get their credentials in the family room, she understood that if we say no too often our kids either a.) stop hearing us or b.) stop asking us. Both are unacceptable. Personally I want to make sure that if a truck is barreling down my quiet little street just as my child runs after a ball, I can shout “NO!” and she’ll stop dead in her tracks. I want her to hear me and know I mean business. We parents have to refine our skills a bit and offer more creativity in the process. With that, the previous conversation might look more like this:”Mom, can I go to the movies?””Maybe. Which movie do you want to see and when?” (Get a conversation started, it freaks kids out.)”Can I have a soda?””How about some juice now and save the soda for later?””Can we have pizza for dinner?””Sure. Maybe Friday. Tonight we’re having burgers.””Can I go do homework?”OK, that’s still a trick question.When all else fails, however, there will still be times where, as the parental authority we simply must say no. (Sorry kids, it’s our job.)So, without further ado, here’s a list of things to say instead of “no.””Maybe.” (Which means “probably not.”)”We’ll see.” (Which means “I’d rather not.”)”Ask your dad.” (Translation: “I can’t deal with it right now.”)”Let me think about it.” (“Ain’t gonna happen.”)And last, but not least, “Yes!” (which means: “Just kidding!”) Charla Belinski teaches the parenting course Redirecting Children’s Behavior and writes from her home in Snowmass Village. Her column appears every other Sunday in the Post Independent.
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We can’t always put it on government to completely solve a problem, especially one with so many challenges and so much nuance such as homelessness.