Switching my default response

If you asked my child what my favorite word was, without hesitation, he would respond: no.

No has been my go-to word for a while now.

I felt a certain sense of pride in saying no when asked to do things I didn’t want to do, things I felt infringed on my personal time and space.

Being raised by two independent women taught me to speak my truth long before it was some kind of personal development rally cry.

And my truth was usually “No.”

Did I want to get together?


Did I want to volunteer for something?
Um, not really.

Would I like to watch someone’s kids while they ran errands?
Absolutely not – my house was not childproof. Yes, I knew I had a child. However, my house was not childproofed for other people’s kids.

No was my favorite response and reaction.

I heard my friends getting sucked into things they didn’t want to do, and they were miserable.

“If you didn’t want to do it, why did you say yes?” I asked once.

I knew the answer before they said it.

They didn’t want to disappoint someone or let them down. A lot of women are raised to be accommodating and to put everyone else first, even if it causes them to neglect themselves. A lot of women, except for those raised by Helen and Jean, feel that way, that is.

I have joked to my girlfriends that any time they needed me to say no on their behalf, I would be happy to. Delighted, thrilled, ecstatic even.

My child knows no is my initial response, yet, he still tries.

“Can I –?”
He sighs, knowing not to press the issue because I can dig my heels down in a no and make it stick.

In professional settings, my variation is a softer “no, no.”

I don’t want to seem quite as unyielding, so I put the extra one in as a gentle decline.

It had worked so well, of a number of years, this whole no thing.

Until one day, I heard some friends talking about an outing they had over the weekend.

I was kind of hurt; why hadn’t they asked me to go?
“You always say no,” I was told.

True. I do love my no. And being an introvert makes me also avoid most social gatherings like the plague.

But what they did sounded fun. I may have actually said yes this time.

My no wasn’t set in stone – was it?

Did it seem like it was?

“You would have said it was too far, or we’d get back too late,” my friend said.
That did sound like something I would say.

Or, I had too much to do, or I had plans.

Plans that involved putting on yoga pants and watching Hallmark Movies & Mysteries while looking at cat videos on social media.

“We figured you couldn’t go so we just went without mentioning it.”

Had my no become so standard and common that people were pre-emptively using it on my behalf?

I did not like this.

Sure, I liked saying no, but I wanted it to be my no, my choice.

It was my no to use, gosh darnit.

“If we go back, we’ll ask you,” my friend promised. “But you will probably just say no.”

“No, I won’t,” I said. See – I found a way to work in a no.

“Yes, you will.”
“No, I won’t.”
Perhaps I needed to change my default in some way. A slight tweak.

I had missed out on a great afternoon; what else had I missed on by saying no all these years?

Had my love for the no caused me to stop saying yes to everything that was potentially good?

“So, you will go if we go back?”


“Maybe?” My friend groaned.

It wasn’t as harsh as no; didn’t feel as locked in as yes.

It had so much open-ended potential that could give me the opportunity to decide if I really wanted to do something or not.

Maybe is my new favorite word.

safety first

My job description (1/14/2015)

Someone asked me recently how many children I have and what their ages were.

It sounds like at times I have a full house. I frequently refer to my three spoiled, sassy dogs as ‘my girls.’

I had to think for a minute before I answered: “Two, a 10-year-old and a 50-year-old.”

The lady looked at me puzzled. “You don’t look old enough to have a 50-year-old. Did you adopt an older child?”

No, I didn’t. I am referring to the way my husband can regress back to being about 13-years-old the minute he and Cole are together.

He is the ultimate best bud – he’s got a driver’s license and as a parental figure, he can give the OK to things I will normally say a resounding “No” to.

I’m the boring, no fun, bad guy.

Case in point: Lamar and Cole wandered off to a gun store while I waited on take out one night. Cole had some money in his pocket he got from Nennie and it was burning a hole until he spent it. When they joined me, Cole’s little face was beaming with joy.

“I got a knife!” he squealed.

Me, not thinking too much of it, mumbled “how nice,” as I buckled my seat belt.

He’s had little pocket knives before that amounted to basically a pair of tiny tweezers and a blade that would maybe be fair for spreading butter in August.

“See,” he said, thrusting a sheath at me.

It was a knife. A real knife. Not Crocodile Dundee-ish, but a knife nonetheless.

“Why did you get this?” I demanded, sending a glare that was sharper than the knife I was holding to my husband.

Cole stuck his little chin out in determination. “Daddy said he’s gonna teach me some basic survival skills, like how to use a knife, build a fire – there’s a thing in there that will help me get a fire ready and sharpen my blade. I am going to learn some big boy outdoor skills and have fun with my poppa.”

I think smoke was still coming out of my ears.

“I don’t like you having this. This is a real knife, and you are not going to carry this thing.”

The little chin went out further. “Rule number nine – always carry a knife.”

My child knows when in doubt, quote Gibbs. But not even quoting “NCIS” was going to save him on this matter.

“Rule 51 – sometimes you’re wrong,” was my reply. “And this time, you’re wrong. Both of you.”

“Oh, come on,” Lamar began. “Let him have the knife. He is smart and knows how to be careful. We talked about it and went over it in the store when we were in there. He knows what to do.”

I sighed. I was hungry and tired and didn’t want to fight. I just planned on sneaking in his room and finding that knife and hiding it until he was 40.

Days passed and Cole proved – so far – that he knew knife safety. He still thinks he is more grownified than what he is.

That’s the word I called him and he scrunched up his little face and asked me if it was a word. “Yes,” I told him. “It is.”

Then, one day, as I was trying to enhance our wellbeing by buying vitamins at the health food store, Lamar and Cole ventured to Walmart.

When they came and got me and my bag of vitamins that are supposed to make me skinny and fight off every strain of the flu while giving me luscious, long hair, Cole announced he had a wrist rocket.

“A what?” I asked.

“A wrist rocket. It’s super cool, I will show you it tomorrow. I had some money left over so I am either going to get some more BBs or something else.”

I wasn’t too sure what a wrist rocket was, but I sure was wondering how much money my mama gave this child for Christmas.

The next day, I found out that the wrist rocket was some super duper sling shot from Hades that strapped onto my child’s small wrist and propelled BBs toward whatever the target was. “No,” I said. “Absolutely not.”

This set off a chain reaction of my child trying to debate me on how this was safe – all while saying how he was going to get some type of protective gear for it.

“No,” I said. “I said no, that’s the end of the discussion. It will go back. If you have to have protective head gear that makes you look like a storm trooper, then it is too dang dangerous.”

And while I was giving him my parental logic and reasoning, my child committed a cardinal sin:

He was interrupting me with his rebuttals.

“That’s it!” I felt my face grow hot. “Bring me that cussed thing right now – it’s mine!”

His little head dropped as he went to bring me the wrist rocket.

“Why don’t you want me to have any kind of fun?” he asked, placing it in my hands.

“Fun? I am concerned about your safety. I want to keep you safe and from being hurt. This thing could put an eye out or hurt you, really, really bad,” I explained, still upset. “I don’t care if you have ‘fun’ or not – I care if you are safe and get to grow up and old.”


“No buts! My job description is to keep you safe – that’s what I am concerned about. Not fun, not you having some toy that is dangerous. All I want is for you to be safe.”

It’s the reason I make him walk on the inside of the sidewalk, why I make sure he is buckled tight and I have to have him in my line of sight. He could fall, get choked on something, a bee could come out of nowhere. Yes, I am overprotective, but like I said, his safety is my job.

Knowing that he best not defy me when I was on a hyper-psycho-mom tangent, Cole just quietly told me he understood.

A few days later, he bounded out the back door, squealing how he was going to make a fire with his daddy.

“What? A fire, where?” I wanted to know. Fire and those two do not bode well.

“Oh, sweet girl,” he said. “I know your job is my safety, but you know what?”


“Your job stinks.”