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I Dare Me: A Day Saying Yes to Anything Anyone Asks Me

As told to Elisheva Appel

I’m intrigued by my visceral reaction: “No way, I could never do that. That would be the worst day ever!”

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

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W

ith seven kids, mostly boys, in a small Israeli apartment, I think I’ve learned to be pretty laid-back. So when my friend asks if I’d spend a day saying yes to anything anyone asks me, I’m intrigued by my visceral reaction: “No way, I could never do that. That would be the worst day ever!” Apparently, I say a reflexive no far too often, and the thought of letting go is terrifying.

 

Getting Ready

What I should do, but don’t, is get mundane tasks like supper and laundry out of the way in advance so I can focus on responding positively to my kids’ requests.

 

The Challenge

To see whether I can relax and not sweat the small stuff, I agree to spend a day saying yes. I envision an endless flow of freeze pops and assorted junk that will give our dentist heart palpitations, and bedtimes that stretch into next week.

To keep some semblance of control, I draw the line at saying yes to anything dangerous, illegal, or that would cause irreparable damage. 

 

How It Went Down

The day starts with a bang, when five-year-old Chaim pounds on my door at 6 a.m. to ask for Shabbos cereal for breakfast (it’s Tuesday). That one is easy enough; with my pillow beckoning, it’s great to have an excuse to say yes.

Although I forget a lot — “No! Absolutely not! I mean, yes, sure!” — I score humble victories by letting Chani wear her boots to gan, letting my kids have extra dessert, and allowing them to engage in what might euphemistically be called “sensory play” (sprinkling cornstarch all over my kitchen).

 

The real kicker is the phone call from my sister-in-law, who wants to know if I could help her with the self-catering for her son’s bar mitzvah.  I make custom cakes and cookies as a hobby, but somehow my sister-in-law thinks I’m a professional chef. My heart sinks: Goodbye, dare, you are down the drain. I’m particularly careful not to decline outright, but by explaining to her what’s involved, she sees herself that I’m the wrong person for the job.

Of course, there are some requests I do have to turn down, like the coworker who asks me to help with her workload when my husband is waiting for me to get home so he can run out to an important meeting.

Back on the home front, it’s yes mode again, which means bedtime for Mendy is a hurdle; at three years old and not so skilled in the finer points of negotiation, he begs for three more minutes, then one more minute, then ten more minutes.

 I feel compelled to say yes each time, until I circumvent his pleas by telling him, “Yes, but no more asking for more minutes!” which, thankfully, works.

 

Looking Back

My day turned out far less awful than I expected. Sure, my kids asked for extra ices, but just once and then they lost interest. They’re not really insatiable; they might not like feeling limited by the boundaries I usually impose, but they’re not exactly looking to go crazy either.

I notice that so many times I say no could easily be yes: “Yes, when you…” or “Yes, but only if…” Though the ultimate outcome might be the same as if I’d said no, it’s far healthier for the kids to hear their mother saying yes more often than no. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 601)

 

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