YES day? No way!
“It’s called parenting!” says Jennifer Garner in the new ‘Yes Day’ movie out on Netflix, in response to being accused of being too strict with her kids and having too many rules. Yes, she’s being pretty firm with her three children (one of whom is a teen!) and giving off some major dictator vibes, but that’s how you get things done people! Watching the movie and munching on popcorn with my husband and 8-year-old, I’m nodding my head frantically in agreement. It’s called parenting! Exactly!
I can tell the boys don’t agree. The very next moment, my son gently asks “Mom, can we have a ‘yes day’?” He knows the answer already. I wait for the most disastrous moments in the movie (no spoiler alerts) to point out why having a ‘yes day’ is a terrible idea.
For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, a ‘yes day’, is an entire day of saying yes…to anything and everything your children want, say or do. Saying NO is not allowed. The premise of ‘yes day’ is based on the fact that you have some really un-fun parenting going on, and the kids are feeling the need for some freedom and well, less rules.
Am I an un-fun mom? Probably. Do I care about being fun? I mean everyone wants to be known as a fun person, right?
The problem is, at a very fundamental level, the mom job description doesn’t come with any fun built in. The mom job description emphasizes discipline, safety (keep those kids alive and healthy!), and routine. Of course, there’s plenty of nurturing, love, and lots of cuddles, but most days I feel like a coach, a referee, the captain of a ship that has been invaded by pirates.
I run a tight ship.
Kids thrive on routine.
They will thank me when they’re older!
Can someone please buy me a loud whistle on a lanyard I can wear around my neck? And how come dads get to have all the fun?
Even the wheels on the bus song has the mummies on the bus hushing and shushing while the dads are saying “I love you.” We all know this is because mummy is tired and likely hasn’t slept all night long because the poor lady was a) breast-feeding b) nursing a sick child or c) failing at sleep training.
Meanwhile daddy has woken up fresh as a rose, had his tea, espresso shot, and smoothie, and has merrily trotted off to his grand office where he gets to talk to adults all day who say things like “let’s circle back”, “move the needle” and “low hanging fruit” and who are not covered in barf or poo and in fact, smell rather lovely.
But I digress.
Back to the un-fun or fun mom…which am I? And does it even matter because a kids’ definition of fun likely involves consuming massive amounts of sugar, blowing things up, and generally pushing the boundaries of safety… I’m never going to win that fun trophy. And I’m okay with that. But it got me thinking…
When the kids are older and they look back at their childhood, will they think it was fun? When I think about my own childhood, what made it fun?
Freedom: Being able to run downstairs after school and homework, not knowing which friends would be out and about, but still have a lovely play…and then when the sun went down or the street lights came on, we all headed home. We kids ruled the neighborhood and roamed freely with no chaperones or phones or walkie-talkies or anything. It was a safe and happy time without plans and schedules and playdates. We’re quite lucky here in Singapore to have some of this sense of freedom and security for our kids. I do have my son take his walkie-talkie (thanks dad for buying those!) with him though. Worrying is right at the top of the mom job description.
Dream, Space, Time: I’m a bit of a daydreamer…always have been and there’s nothing quite like the ability to just be, imagine, and see. It’s meditative. I have vivid memories of hanging out in my backyard as a kid, without a care in the world, making daisy chains or looking up at the clouds and just daydreaming… I often catch my son daydreaming too. It kind of makes me happy. Daydreaming is healthy for imaginative brain function. In their busy lives, filled with activities and screens… daydreaming is a luxury I would say!
Less rules! We didn’t have the concept of a ‘yes day’ when we were children. For the most part, our parents had fewer things to say no to. There were no laptops or phones (okay, I’m old) but don’t you feel our parents were more chill and fun than we are? I definitely don’t feel like there were that many rules. Or maybe the rules were simple in a simpler time? I remember we could only have sugar on the weekends, and fast food once a month and until you did your homework, there was no television. I don’t remember minding or resenting any of these rules.
So much has changed in our lives and from our own childhood, and yet so much remains the same. Kids still crave freedom, less rules, and the luxury of time and space to express themselves creatively. And while I may not be okay with having a ‘yes day’, I definitely feel inspired to create more ‘yes moments’ for my children…especially when they least expect it.
I will relax rules sometimes to see those smiles. Yes, we can camp on the balcony and I will not worry about mosquitos. I will loosen up a little just to hear them giggle. Yes, we can go swimming at night, way past the kids’ bedtime on a Friday night. I will let them express themselves and just let them be themselves. Yes, the kids can wear mismatched clothes, be messy graffiti artists on the balcony and conduct strange semi-explosive science experiments with snorkeling masks on in the confines of their bedroom…
The P in Parenting stands for progress. I commit to saying yes more and creating more YES! moments for my family. (As long as it’s safe, healthy, and meaningful of course. Ha!)