The Battle of No




“To say yes, you have to sweat and roll up your sleeves and
plunge both hands into life up to the elbows. It is easy to say no.”

Jean Anouilh, French dramatist

Last week brought about Ellie’s new most used word: “no.” She uses it in various tones…the high pitched and short “no!”, the low and drawn out “noooo” along with a serious look, the casual and flippant “ah noo”, and the tearful and saddened “noooooo”. It’s really become quite a huge battle. Ellie do you love me? No! Ellie it’s time to eat. Nooooo. Ellie teeth are not for biting. Ah noo. Ellie , it’s time to change your diaper. Noooooooo. Ellie are you all done eating? No! Nooooo. Ah noo! It’s amazing how many “no’s” she can cram into thirty seconds.

20130528_102155It seems that this might be quite a long battle. Patience is part of what I do for a living; it is basically half of what makes a good teacher, in my opinion. And I have always considered myself to have a lot of patience, but oh my word this little cutie is proving to test that patience in a big way. Maybe it’s partly to do with the fact that I am home for the summer break from school and trying not to go crazy, but in just a week’s time this short word has made me even crazier than I could imagine. I have always heard parents (I used to say they complained, but I would never say that now that I have an…understanding) say that the whole “no” struggle was not fun to deal with, and now I can appreciate their stories. This word is literally driving me nuts! Every time it escapes her mouth in whatever tone she chooses to use I have to remind myself to take a deep breath and reflect something else back to her. Reflecting is an awesome trick I learned while doing my practicum for my Early Childhood A.S. Basically when a child says something that is either pronounced improperly, or in my case not what I want to hear, you repeat what they are trying to say, or in my case what I want to hear. So every time Ellie exclaims “no!” I take a deep breath and reflect “yes”, or “do you mean, “I don’t want my diaper changed?”, or “oh, I’m not all done eating mom?” So far, she is winning. Now I have to keep reminding myself that Battles aren’t won overnight…well not all of them at least. I also keep reminding myself that this trick is not instantaneous, it is largely about exposure. Let me tell you, she is getting a lot of exposure. I’m praying that it sinks in soon and she can come up with some other word to express herself.

I really don’t know why this bothers me so much. I mean, I have worked to instill a sense of independence in her and I’m all for it. But I feel like she is taking it just a little bit too far. I know, how far can a one year old take something on purpose. I’m pretty sure she knows that it annoys me though; as my college professor would always say “they’re short, not stupid”. Yeah, she is short and definitely not stupid, she knows this word gives her some control over me. Maybe it shouldn’t bother me so much. I mean, is it really worth it to get into a power-struggle with my one year old over a two letter word? Maybe she is just like me:stubborn. I should probably let her know though that she has gone to war with the queen of power-struggles. In just over four years of teaching I haven’t lost one yet. I really hope that this is not the struggle that ruins my record. Maybe I should re-think my strategy?

I really hope that at the end of this battle of “no” Ellie is left with a greater understanding of just what “yes” and “no” mean.  In life it can be so much easier to just say no…to never try anything new, to say no to adventure, experience, love, forgiveness, or anything really. The challenge and reward usually comes by saying yes…yes to hard work, to a challenge, to trying something new, to love and the fullness of life. Saying yes is certainly not always easy; I am learning that through experiencing this whole battle of “no”. Though she is still quite small, perhaps when she finally learns to say “yes” even to the small parts of her young life Ellie will have formed the foundation for saying “yes” to life. Learning starts now, the foundation for the rest of her life starts now, and I hope and pray that I can help her build a strong “yes” foundation. For now, I will continue to fight the good fight of “yes” against Ellie and her “no’s”.