Mary Poppins ticks me off. She has fooled me into believing that I have to continually entertain my children with a bag of fun. You know, I should just carry an oversized carpetbag around with me, in case there is ever a dull moment. That way I can just reach in and pull something out that will leave us all in amazement. There will be singing, dancing, flying around in the air, carousel rides, spoons full of sugar, and tap dancing with penguins.
Parents, when did it become our duty to provide constant entertainment for our children? I think about the musical The Chorus Line, and I grab some tap shoes as I sing to my children, “Let Me Entertain You!” Here is an iPad… watch a cartoon! Oh sure—a Pinterest art project that goes along with the season? Of course! Why not?
Scared of boredom, I run around looking for scissors and glue. My pits sweat and my guilt grows under the great expectations I have for myself as a mother. I am unsatisfied with anything less than dazzling, and I fear my children feel the same. I feel inclined to be their personal magician, always pulling something out of my magical motherhood hat.
Why are we afraid of empty spaces? Blank canvases? A notebook without words? If we parents are always creating and entertaining, how are our children ever going to learn how to pick up a paintbrush and make something beautiful themselves?
I feel inclined to be their personal magician, always pulling something out of my magical motherhood hat.
I am the worst enabler in this way. My son’s first question when he came home from school was, “Mommy, what fun are we going to do today?” Every. Single. Day. “Oh, good to see you too honey!” His question has since then been outlawed. Yep, it is banned from our household in its entirety. The. End. I am not your event planner or the fun-fairy; I am your mommy. Besides, I don’t even own a wand, and if I did, I probably wouldn’t be able to find it. It would most likely be hidden somewhere underneath the three-month-old chicken nuggets and hamburger buns in the back seat of the minivan.
Nevertheless, one day it happened. I filled my children’s day with bliss: poolside popsicles, a trip to the park, Chick-fil-A (need I say more), and to top it all off—I brought out the art beads! Yes, the ones that always end up scattered across the floor.
So 647 tiny beads on the floor later, my children had the audacity to stick out their bottom lip and say, “This is the worst day ever!”
Excuse me, can we rewind? Did that really just come out of your mouth? Do you realize how privileged you are to have me as your mom? Besides, there are children in Africa who never get to play with beads or eat fried chicken! Instead of being full of thanks, they just wanted more.
Besides, I don’t even own a wand, and if I did, I probably wouldn’t be able to find it.
Plagued with fatigue, I turn on the television and we turn off our minds. The desire to fill our boredom often stifles our creativity. Could it be that turning off the screen could turn on our imaginations and the ability to create? Could it be that saying “no” could let our children walk into a bigger “yes?”
Imagine the danger of always saying yes… “Yes, you may have another snack even though you just ate 10 minutes ago. Yes, you can watch another show even though we haven’t moved from the television set in a week. Yes, we will throw you an extravagant birthday party with exotic zoo animals and diamond goody bags. Yes, I will play with you even though I have to clean the house. Yes, you can text your friends the entire day. Yes, I will buy you boobs and a new nose for your graduation gift. Yes, we can spend money we don’t have on clothes you don’t need. Yes, I will drive you around to all 100 of your weekly activities and drive myself crazy because I am scared to death to have an ordinary child.” This world is overdosing on “yes” and is in too much of a comatose state to realize the severity of the dilemma we are in.
When we say “no”, we are often saying “yes” to things much more valuable in life. Sometimes in an attempt to give our children what they want, we are unable to give them what they need. Instead of filling their time, give them time to create, to innovate. I want my kids to feel the quiet time to discover the things that truly fill, and completely satisfy.
There are times we must say “no” in order to point the next generation to a greater yes! Empty spaces, blanks pages, and quiet moments are times when our souls can feel a longing for something more. By learning to say “no”, we teach our children that the fullness of life is found in the talents and gifts we’ve been given, and not found in what the immediacy of this world has to offer.
You’ll love this podcast episode from This Grit and Grace Life: