Tonight, as I was washing the dishes after dinner, my children both sat on the couch complaining about how they feel sick. Then they asked me for ice cream. I said no. They proceeded to whine and ask for ice cream. I told them no, and kindly explained that if they eat ice cream when they’re sick they will get more sick instead of getting better.
They then proceeded to tell me that they magically don’t feel sick anymore. Voila! … and kept pressing it. Sooooo, being the stellar award winning parent that I am … I said- Erg! fine, you can have one small spoon.
My daughter didn’t like that and kept pressing for more, and that is when I started to feel angry. Here I had _already_ bent for them and she was still pushing.
So then I went ahead and explained to her that its important to respect other people’s boundaries and honor them when they say no, because otherwise we make people feel really uncomfortable and sometimes that can even make them hurt in a deep way for a long time… so, “no means no”…
… as I handed her the spoon of ice cream.
… and that’s when it hit me. That one little thing is what has made the past 10 years very, very difficult for me.
Not the ice cream, ice cream is the best. It was chocolate chocolate chip, it’s delish. But the allowing of my boundaries to be changed when someone else pressures me part.
The ex who used to beat me circa 2009? I told him no when he first asked me to be his girlfriend, I kid you not, dozens of times. Before I knew he was a woman beater. He just kept asking and asking and guilting me and pressuring me so hardcore that eventually my no turned into a ‘I guess I should give you a chance’ ..
..and that opened the door for him to take over my entire life in a very bad way. In a way that almost left me dead more than once. In a way that ruined friendships, ruined credit, ruined careers. In a way that flipped my world on its head for a decade. In a way I’m still trying to recover from to this day.
I admit in the case of kids and ice cream it’s not the same. It’s not the end of the world, is it, to give a few kiddos a spoonful of ice cream. It kind of is though, because I just inadvertently taught my kids that no doesn’t really mean no … apparently no means: ask harder and maybe yes.
So what does that mean for them ? Does that mean when a dood tries to sleep with ’em and they say no, they themselves will think that there isn’t even a such thing as no? Because no actually means “ask harder and maybe yes” ????????
Does that mean that when they’re asked to work overtime and they’re already burnt out and say no, if their boss pressures them harder they will bend and change their no to a ‘ask harder and maybe yes’ ??
Does that mean they won’t ever have any boundaries and anyone will be able to take advantage of them!!?!?!?!?!?!?!?
What have I done? This isn’t even something that I myself have been conscious of. I think about how I got this way. My childhood, my past, my whatever. Now I’m 37 years deep into this life thing and all that time I’ve allowed myself to get pushed into things I didn’t really want? Some call that a “pushover” and the definition is really self explanatory. Some say it’s just called being nice and not wanting to let people down. It doesn’t really matter now though. The past has passed.
What matters now is that I don’t perpetuate that same bullshit ass bullshit and especially not in front of children. What matters is that other parents also enforce that no really means no.
What matters is that the next time someone asks me (or you, or anyone) a question that I’m (or you’re, or anyone is) inclined to say ‘no.’ to … that I (or you or they) say no.
That we teach ourselves and our kids that no really does mean no and that “no” in fact is a powerful tool that can protect lives.
We learned everything we know from the previous generations but that does not mean we have to do things the same way. We don’t have to be perpetual door mats for anyone or anything at all ever. Not women, not POC, not LGBTQ, not anyone. Be unapologetically you and that means that you also unapologetically honor your own boundaries and insist that others do too. *THAT* is what our own kids will learn from.
Never ever change your “no” to anything else. Not to maybe, not to yes, not to ask again later, not to anything other than “I said no.”
Say no and leave the answer at no where no answers belong.
You are worth that. Our kids are worth that.
No really means no, pass it on.