When No Means Maybe

(The following is a Guest Post by my husband.)

If there's anything we've learned from our two teenage sons, it's that we have to be very clear with our answers. We realized a long time ago that for many children, repetition is the key to their learning (along with the occasional smack upside the head. I'm kidding.). So we often have to repeat our answers over and over and over and over again. This is not because they are intentionally disrespectful. It's because they are simply children and our words don't always seem to connect to the proper processing neurons in their developing brains until the third or fourth time we've said something (and this is based on years of unsubstantiated scientific evidence).

Needless to say (but for the benefit of the reader I'll say it anyway), whenever our sons ask me something and my answer is "NO", they will inevitably ask me at least 2 to 3 more times. My guess is that they either 1) didn't hear my answer the first time (this has happened on more than one occasion) or 2) are hoping that inundating me with the same question will somehow change my mind and I'll say "YES" (this is more often the case). But see, if I do that then my NO loses all of it's power. And Daddy must have all the power. It's rule #1 in the Book of Parenting. Didn't get your copy yet? I think it's out of print, but check Amazon.com to see if there are still a few used copies around.

So I can say that for the most part they've come to understand that when I say no, I mean NO and it's not up for discussion. Unless of course, it is. Surprisingly, my sons have pretty much figured out when my NO is a definitive no and when a little more prodding may get me to change my mind.  For instance, we'd all gone to the beach a while ago before the current heat wave. It was maybe 60 degrees at the beach this particular afternoon. The boys asked me, "Dad, are you going to get into the water with us?"  To which I replied, "Nooooo... it's way too cold!" 

Of course, that wasn't the end of it. For the duration of the time we were at the beach they continued to ask me to get into the water and I continued to say NO. That is, until right before we were getting ready to leave and my darling wife asked me to rinse the beach toys. The boys immediately sprang into action and started in earnest asking to get into the water even though they themselves were shivering from the cold. And so it ended with me and my two sons ankle deep in freezing water, playing footsies with the sand crabs. I think it's important to point out that my NO in this instance was merely a reflection of my reluctance and not in response to my children asking permission. In those cases, no is DEFINITELY no. But in showing my children that they are more important than personal inconvenience, there is a time and place for me to change my mind. It is in those moments that MAYBE is clearly understood.