The word echoed in my own ears. I did it! I said it!

I did NOT say, “I don’t think so,” or, “Not this year,” or, “I’m really really sorry, but I can’t.”

I said no to another adult! Who wanted me to do something I really didn’t want to do!

My body automatically prepares for the aftermath of no.

Lungs take a deep breath, readying for the ensuing rush of words explaining myself.

Mind reviews the list of reasons why I needed to say no.

Mouth opens, ready to share all this unnecessary information.

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Then the best part of my brain (the sensible one that uttered the sentence in the first place) places her hand gently over my mouth.

Let it be. Just let it be no.

I hate letting people down. I hate it so much I would do ANYTHING to avoid it. I will take on any task for anyonebe it church, school, friends, parents, kids. If you have a job you can’t handle, don’t have time for, or just don’t want, I’m your girl. If you have feelings that need dumped out on someone, come to me. I’ll absorb all your pain like a sponge, listen for as long as you need to talk, and then go crawl in a hole made of your darkness and cry with you.

I’m the girl to carry anything you don’t want to carry. All you have to do is ask. Or hint, actually. That’s usually all it takes.

Correction: I should say, I was your girl.

Do you know what I’m learning?

When I say no to things that will steal my joy, I’m protecting the joy around myself and my children.

When I say no to the things that will drag me down for days, I’m giving my children days with sunshiny mommy instead of thunderstorm mommy.

When I say no to things that will leave the kids overstimulated or exhausted or tense, I’m planting a hedge around their good day tomorrow.

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When I say no to the bad, or even the not-as-good, I’m saying yes to something better.

No is a gate to more peace in our life.

And the best payoff of all? The exchange between my kids I heard the other day:

“Sis, I want to play with you!”

Umm, no. I’m actually having a lot of fun by myself. Can we play together later?”

“Sure. Have fun!”

She said no. And he accepted her no.

Being able to set and respect healthy boundaries is a new skill for me. I love that my son and daughter are learning early. Imagine how much simpler our world could be, if we would learn to simply, kindly, and sincerely say no.

Kathryn Liber

Kathryn Liber is a Midwestern mother to a boy who loves books and a girl who loves dirt. A lover of words, coffee, and good food, if she isn't reading, writing, or speaking words . . . it's probably because her mouth is full of something delicious!