Suburban Snapshots

Protecting My No

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

I don't say no easily. This is why I'm currently in charge of maintaining the PTA website and am running a Daisy troop that's one girl over the official ratio. It's why there are 46 containers of Play-Doh in my living room. It's why the local girls' softball team has twenty of my dollars and why I'm constantly burying copies of The Watchtower in the bottom of my recycle bin. Hell, it's why I have a kid.

I thought I'd be better at saying no. Growing up I was often frustrated that my mom never seemed to refuse anyone, and was constantly giving people rides or covering shifts or taking in relatives with no where else to go. She still does it, plus now she's constantly inundated with other people's children — mine included. I come from accommodators, it's in my genes.

So when I do say no, I have important reasons. When I say no, I've considered all other options, including "maybe" and "not right now." I've quickly run through scenarios and consequences. I've contemplated the outcomes of yes and have decided that they don't override my discomfort with no. It's not that I want to let you down. I don't want you to feel dismissed or hurt, my no isn't about you, it's based on a complex series of probabilities and experiences.

Sometimes no is met with a frown or grumble: No, you've had plenty of candy before bed. No, I don't have time to run to the post office for you tomorrow. No, I'm not making lasagna because it's such a pain in the ass that I'd almost rather have actual anal sex.

I understand those brief rebuttals. What I don't need is a debate, I don't want a guilt trip or a multi-sentence exchange justifying my no. We aren't discussing why you can't stay up another hour, I'm not apologizing for not being in the mood right now or explaining at length why I'm not going to open a credit card with your store today. My no deserves respect, dammit. My no is never easy.

I like to yes. Yes makes everyone happy, yes makes me a hero, yes makes me santa and the ice cream man all at once. But sometimes yes makes me tired or overbooked or frustrated with myself for not protecting my time or my convictions. I'm trying, I'm working on the balance between yes and no. I'm learning that often, a decisive no hurts everyone less than a reluctant yes.