• Eve Bernfeld

Is NO a Four-Letter Word? Part 1: Ado Annie

Updated: Mar 13


“I’m just a girl who can’t say No…” I sang to myself as I dashed around the house yesterday morning, trying to get to work on time.


“Hey Ado Annie!” My husband called as I ran by.


“Mama can you help me get off my shin guard?” Spring soccer season is around the corner. Spring trying on cleats and shin guards season has already begun.


“No, I have to leave for work…. Okay, fine.” 2 shin guards removed, and off I dash again.


This is how the whole morning went. It started earlier when I was trying to get out the door for my morning walk. It is amazing the things that children can suddenly need, just as one is about to leave. I was starting to get frustrated, when I realized there was a cure for what was going on. A magic word, if you will. But the magic is a little abrupt—like pulling off a band-aid.


“No.” A firm and clear line.


“No. I cannot help you with that right now. You can do it yourself, or wait till Dad gets up in 5 minutes.”


I realized I had two choices: I could say NO to them, and NO to myself feeling compelled to stop for every request/demand. Or, I could keep pussyfooting around it and end up yelling at them within five minutes. “Why won’t you let me go for my walk?! You know I need to go for a walk in the morning! Blah, Blah, BLAH!”


I chose NO, and it felt kind of rotten to say (though better than the alternative). It felt like I was fighting against the whole of evolution (read: mother, drop everything and tend to offspring) in order to assert a tiny corner of autonomy to get the 20 minutes of fresh air and movement that I so desperately need.


Walking through the quiet park and feeling as if I had (temporarily) gotten my brain back, I thanked the word NO, for giving me this much-needed solitude. Not only for my sake. When I don’t get it, Crabby Mommy comes and invades my body like a B Movie villain.


Later in the morning, when we were all getting ready to go our separate ways—school and work—the pattern repeated itself. Three children asking, pleading, demanding that I do just one more thing for them (you know, like tie their cleat or pull off their shin guard), me desperately trying to get to work on time. With teeth brushed. They are old enough, by the way, to do just about all getting ready for school activities independently. But that doesn’t stop them from incessantly asking for help. It’s my own fault, of course. I say “I can’t help you right now.” And then I do.


We have an uneasy relationship with NO in our culture. I have been wrestling with writing about it for over a week, and I’ve finally decided that I have way more than one blog’s worth to say. I finally said NO to the belief that I had to get all my thoughts organized and jammed into this one piece. What a relief!


So I’m going to finish with homework for both of us: I will keep grappling with the topic of NO in a series of blogs. And in the meantime, you might examine your own feelings about NO and see if there is anything in your life that you don’t need, and from which NO could help liberate you. (Or “No thank you” if that sounds better.)

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