My Mom Vocabulary includes well-worn phrases such as “in a moment,” “we can’t do that right now,” and “no, that’s not something we’re going to buy.” But this week, I dropped those phrases and the results surprised me.
We spent a few days in PEI with all-inclusive bracelets that gave us unlimited access to eight attractions in Cavendish. This quieted the Mom Voice that would normally be cautioning our family against over-spending or wasting our money on what might only be a 15-minute experience. I learned that my assumptions about what would keep my kids’ attention and engage them were holding us back from a lot of fun as a family. It was also holding my kids back from life experiences that I now see bring them joy, test their limits, and encourage their independence.
When the kids asked for treats, I tried to replace the “you’ve had enough sugar” and “we don’t need more toys” with “you have $4 to spend here as you please” (with a little help from the grandparents, who are always a little better at saying “yes”). They took their time, they considered their options, and they made decisions. That’s a life skill, not just an indulgence.
This isn’t just an exercise for parents, though. Let’s all give ourselves the same freedom and empowerment this summer. Do you often drive by an interesting landmark and think ‘I should really stop sometime?’ Next time, don’t keep driving. Do you sit at your desk at work and dream about a different career? Sign up to audit a course or go talk with a career coach. There is always a reason not to do something; embrace the reasons you should do it.
I often think a lot of the criticism that’s heaped on Millennials for being self-absorbed is actually a mix of misunderstanding and jealousy. The Millennial generation understands the power of following your heart; the smart ones pair that with hustle and create their own careers seemingly out of thin air. Let’s be honest: those of us who’ve been caught up in the traditional ‘find-a-good-job, climb-the-corporate-ladder’ mindset envy the seeming ease at which these younger folks balance work and life. They’ve internalized that dream chased by the generations before them; we can’t knock them for starting where we wished we had.
Taking the time to listen to your heart – or your children – isn’t a new concept.
Shonda Rhimes famously credits saying ‘yes’ to her children with saving her career. That career includes being the powerhouse behind television shows such as Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal. In 2015, she published a book about her year of saying ‘yes’ to everything: from anxiety-inducing public speaking engagements to time-consuming playing with her kids. Stopping to play forced her to remember the power behind all we do – work, home, whatever – is fueled by being excited by life.
It’s easy to forget those little joys in life bring us so much happiness overall. Watching my kids race to ride roller coasters and spend seemingly hours deciding which toy best suited them reminded me that we all need to make time for those moments. We need to allow ourselves as well as those around us to space to explore, to discover, and to enjoy.
There are so many small, wonderful moments around us each day. Let this be the summer that we all stop to appreciate them. Make time to walk the Riverfront Trail and spend time at each memorial along the way. Grab a picnic lunch and leave the electronics out of sight. Say yes to yourself and you might just be surprised at what you discover.