Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Saying No.

I'm learning. Every day I'm learning. How to get better at things I'm expected to know as a parent. Like how to get a first grader to remember ridiculously hard spelling words. Or do math homework that is essentially an LSAT exam.

I've figured out how to hide vegetables my kids hate in foods that they love. Learned how to make homemade play dough out of flour and salt. How to get the prime spot in car pool line and lose my voice cheering on my future professional athletes. I'm practically supermom in these areas.

One thing I've had to learn recently is to say one simple word.

Let me be clear. I know how to say this to the kids. No. You can't cut your own hair. No. You're not allowed to put your socks in your sister's face. No. We are not getting a dog.
No. No. No

The place where I have a hard time speaking up is when I'm out. With the kids. I had no idea people had such curiosity when it came to this.  Its chaos going anywhere with five children. I count them over and over again to make sure they are all within my grasp. One. Two. Three. Four. Five.

Cue random stranger who approaches loudly and unexpectedly. I know as soon as I see their hands go up what they are going to say and do. And many times I don't react quickly enough. Its done and I walk away feeling like I failed. Like they beat me to the punch. Like I lost the draw in a wild west gunfight. Like my confidence took a hit and I'm left temporarily weak and insecure.
And I'm a spineless, sucky mom.

But I've learned. Today was another example affirming that. I'm amazed I acted quickly enough. In these situations, seconds matter. You can't hesitate. The words have to be shoved out there. Out in the open. I was nice, but firm- and even gave an explanation.

Here's how it went:

We were waiting for food to be delivered to our table. My dreadlocked little cutie was sitting in the highchair next to me. I saw the waitress put the tray down. I smiled and said thanks.
As I spoke, hands shot up. Two inches above his head.

"His hair is soooo amazing! Can I touch it?"
Realize this is never actually a question. Because most people touch as they ask. Her voice was shrill and loud. The crowd at the next table looked over.

"No, you can't."

Her hands stayed suspended over his head. She looked at me as if she didn't understand my answer. I know that most people have kind intentions. I don't want to be rude, but I can't go against my gut as a mom. I do not want to disrespect my kids' personal space. I would not want someone I didn't know to come up and start touching my hair. That would creep me out a little.

The woman persisted."But I'm dying to touch it and see what it feels like. "

Usually the first no does the trick. But sometimes you have to reinforce.

"No, but you can admire it from afar," I suggested with a smile.  "I do appreciate your compliment, but I don't want my kids to think its ever appropriate or acceptable for a stranger to touch them."

I saw her hands go down. She shrugged and walked away. I looked at my little people, who were happily enjoying their lunch. See I want them to stand up for themselves. Not feel intimidated. Not feel pressured to do what somebody suggests just because its sometimes uncomfortable to say that one little word.

Well-meaning hair touchers, your kind words letting me know you appreciate the time it takes to twist and roll I am truly thankful for. Really.
But when it comes to physical contact,  to touching my little boy's hair-
this mama is gonna tell you one thing.


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