There has been an abundance of ‘nos’ in our household of late. Mumma has said no to eating toothpaste, digging in pot plants, playing with the microwave, tearing library books, hiding the television remote, standing up in high chairs, playing piano with sticky fingers, drawing on cupboards and throwing food on the floor. Miss L has said no to being fed, getting out of the shower, naps after lunch, giving other children a turn on the swing, keeping her shoes and socks on, getting dressed in the morning, being carried at the shops and a very adamant, week-long no to sleeping in her own bed!
Nobody likes to hear no. I don’t like others to say it to me, I don’t like to say it myself and I really don’t like hearing it come from the mouth of my one year old. But there are times when it must be said. As a parent, saying the word no is necessary for establishing boundaries and keeping my daughter safe. Miss L has worked out how to unlatch the gate at the bottom of the stairs and she is determined to climb up all on her own. She doesn’t understand that when I say ‘no, please wait for a big person’ it’s not because I want to spoil her fun but because I don’t want her to get hurt. Likewise, when I asked my cardiologist to go off the medication all together, the no was because he knew what was best for my health even though it wasn’t what I wanted to hear.
A couple of weeks ago I realised just how important no was in Miss L’s vocabulary. She was playing with a big exercise ball in the backyard when Rex the dog bounded over to join the game. In all his rambunctious enthusiasm, Rex knocked Miss L to the ground and walked right over the top of her. He’s not a small dog. Half mastiff and half ridgeback, Rex outweighed me until this post baby weight went on and he started getting old and losing muscle tone. We scooped up our stunned and smudged little girl and brought the dog back over. I explained to Miss L that if he got too close or too rough she needed to say no in a very loud voice and that he needed to know she was the boss. The no that came out of her mouth was more of a whispered question than a statement so we worked on it until she could yell that word with confidence.
There has been a pretty loud no in my life too. Over the past six months, I have applied for 10 different library jobs and scored exactly one interview and zero job offers. It’s not me, I’m sure. I am well qualified and experienced and in the past I’ve always interviewed well. It’s not even my health, since that question has never come up. In the quiet moments I have begged and pleaded with God, asking Him why hurtling us towards Brokeville could possibly be part of His plan. Do I need more boundaries, is it for my own good, is there a better plan in place? And in the space where His answer would have been appreciated I realised that we only ever want to hear ‘no, because’. It’s only ok to hear a no when you know the reason why. God doesn’t work that way, I have found. Sometimes no means no. Just like Miss L and the dog, it’s a matter of hierarchy, of asserting authority. If I choose to give my life to the creator of the heavens and the earth and He says no then it is my job to listen rather than question, to follow rather than lead.
It is a lesson hard learned and I need reminding of that, even when it goes against the grain. Especially when it goes against the grain.