Dear child, I’m saying no like it’s my job. Because it actually is my job as your mom and one I take very seriously. To me, the term “parent” is not a noun, but a verb. I do not believe the idea “kids will be kids” gives me the excuse to neglect my responsibility as your parent. Yes, some things are out of my control, but I do not believe this means I can just let go and hope you’ll turn out all right. God chose your dad and me as your earthly parents and, while you are ultimately His, we get the gift and responsibility of guiding you to Him while you are with us. I believe what I do and say to you matters—you matter.
I never fully understood my parents when they gave me the reason “because I love you” when they laid out boundaries—until I had you. It has nothing to do with your maturity and every bit to do with ensuring you have boundaries to continue to keep you on the right path, to keep things clear. Because doubt will set in and people will try to call you off your path.
I say no now like it’s my job, because, for now, it is. Someday, however (sooner than I care to admit), it is going to be your job—and it will be my job to hand over the reins. When that time comes, I want to know that I’ve done all I possibly could to instill in you that inner voice that guides you to what is right and true, and nudges you to call on God when you don’t know what that is.
I don’t say no to make your life difficult (although it does make our lives more difficult now if I’m being honest). It would be so much easier to say yes to many things and I know that will only become truer the older you get. It is not easy to say no knowing it is going to result in resistance. Knowing it is going to result in storming off, slammed doors and frustrations on both sides. It is not easy to say no when there are other kids in the house and sometimes a yes would equal peace and quiet. It is not easy to say no when “everyone else” is allowed to. It is not easy, but I believe it will be worth it.
It will be worth it when those “friends” dare you to do something dangerous and you have the wherewithal to say no. It will be worth it when you are tempted to do something you know is a little off, but think better of it because you heard “no” from your parents on more than one occasion on that same issue. It will be worth it if a conversation we had gives you pause—just enough to allow you to think better of making a decision that could potentially steer you off course for the rest of your life. It will be worth it when you can speak up for those in need of your help when you see them being wronged. It will be worth it when you recognize that true joy comes not from the things of this world, but from the Creator beyond it.
It’s OK and it’s good for this to be a conversation between us at times. I’m certainly not perfect and sometimes I need to bend. However, I want you to know there is always, always a why behind my no, just as there is a why behind your desire for me to say yes. I am always here to hear what your reason is, but please know, your father and I make decisions for a reason. Things seem small now but someday a yes or a no may be a fight for your very soul. I know there will be far bigger temptations and struggles down the road—issues that we can’t even define right now because they may not exist yet. So go ahead and challenge. I want you to think critically and question and pray for guidance and I want you to see parents who do the same thing. I want you to see parents who set an example on how to resist peer pressure so you can do the same when you need to. Who hold fast to their “no” when needed so you can do the same in the future. I’m teaching you to be responsible now because you are worth it. You are precious and wonderful and so important.
I love you enough to say no, so you can say yes to the right things. So you have the freedom to reach your fullest, most meaningful life, unfettered by things that were never supposed to weigh you down. So you can say yes to what is life-giving and no to what’s not.
Just this week, as I looked on, you and your brother played outside and suddenly paused. You had stopped to be still and put your hand on your heart to show respect for our national anthem. You did the right thing even though no one was looking, even though no one told you to.
That right there is the essence of my prayer for you in all of the “yes” and “no” of parenting. Above all, more than my no, more than us telling you what you can’t do, I pray you’ll always remember what we showed you TO do. That you will always try to do the right thing even when no one is looking—especially when no one is looking.
And I will mess up. Sometimes I’ll say no when I should have said yes. Sometimes I’ll say yes to the wrong thing. And so will you. I will always forgive you and help you—I hope you can do the same for me as we learn. Regardless of any choice you make or anything that happens, I will always be here for you and you can always, always come to me, no matter what.
So dear child, I’m saying no like it’s my job, because as your mom, it actually is my job. I’m saying “no” because I said “yes” to being a mom—and it is the best and most worthwhile job I’ve ever said yes to.
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