The Power of Saying No
By Trish Sammer on April 03, 2014
I have a kitchen calendar that's pretty much the nerve center of our home. The kids scrawl all of their activities into the proper date boxes -- yes, even the 5-year old, who painstakingly forms each letter as I slowly spell whatever word he needs to publish on the family agenda. Doctors' appointments, meetings, conference calls ... it all ends up there. I never make a hint of plan without checking it first.
This weekend, though? I have mentally stamped a big NO across both days.
Too much of too much
My kids are both invited to birthday parties this weekend. The friends who invited them are certainly nice kids, but they're not close friends. In fact, in my son's case, I'm not even sure I could pick out the classmate who asked him. And yeah, both parties look pretty cool -- swimming at one, a screening of the LEGO movie at the other.
But ... man, our weekends are so busy sometimes. I often feel like I spend the whole weekend herding my kids in and out of the car, packing, unpacking, making sure clothes are clean, hair is brushed, squeezing in meals and urging them to EAT, darnit! before it's time to get to the next thing.
I know everyone is busy but keep in mind that in a single parent household if one person has an activity everyone has to go. That means there's often one kid in tow feeling surly, left out, and bored. We also have the added obstacles of shared custody, so everything must be compressed into the 50% of the time I have the kids on weekends. On top of that, we're close to an hour away from my mom, my sisters, and my boyfriend, so doing anything with any of them requires advance planning and travel time.
So often I get it wrong. I say yes to random invitations, activities and obligations. Then I realize weeks (and sometimes, yes, months) have gone by and I haven't seen my mom or my sisters or my nieces and nephews. The boyfriend and I try to get the kids together on a weekend and we have to shoehorn our activities into the tiny, common spaces of free time that exist between four kids' social and activity schedules. And oh yeah ... friends. Sure would be nice to see some of them a little more, too.
I was torn about this weekend. I didn't want my kids to miss fun parties. I felt guilty about saying no when it was possible for us to arrange our schedules so both kids could attend. I had this strange sense of obligation to completely reconfigure our weekend around these parties because ... I mean, we weren't really, officially busy ... right?
But then I realized we actually were. In my mind, I had wanted this weekend to spend time with the boyfriend and our collective munchkins, out in the sunshine, without the clock ticking down on when one or the other of us would have to run off to the next obligation. I wanted to see my mom for a purely social visit. I wanted my kids to get rosy-cheeked from running around the back yard with their cousins. I wanted to look the people I love in the eye and actually give them my attention rather than just the sad, shriveled leftovers of the time and energy that remained after I'd attended to everything else.
What really matters
It all brings me back to something Tony Robbins says: Most people spend their lives majoring in minor things.
Rather than focusing on what's really important to me, I've been responding to whatever comes my way. It's like spending a day sorting email instead of doing the actual work that I meant to sit down and do.
At the end of the day, I want to feel like I've spent my hours in ways that were fulfilling, rather than just full.
No, we can't wipe the decks clean of obligations every weekend. When it comes down it, I probably wouldn't want to. But for this weekend at least, I'm saying no. Feels pretty good.
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