In defense of NO

I was watching a programme on parenting the other day. There was this daddy who seemed quite hands on. “So you think one shouldn’t say ‘no’ too frequently to the kids?” asked the pretty compere. “I think one should completely remove the word ‘no’ from one’s dictionary,” he emphasized. “Kids learn primarily by observation. Too much supervision and saying ‘no’ all the time isn’t healthy," said he.
No saying no? I imagined Hrit wielding his gada unchecked hammering the walls, the sofa, the bed and occasionally Naisha.. and then Naisha with her scissors and glue stick cutting up and pasting whatever she could lay her hands on…bills, clothes, books, her hair…. No no not possible I thought.
But then I have this problem of constantly evaluating myself and wondering if I’m doing the right thing with my kids. Self doubt is always waiting in the wings. Am I a very inflexible mother? I wondered. 
Well I thought I must at least give the dad’s theory a chance. Then Naisha asked if she could do water colours. It was evening, I was tired, the maid had left for the day and we just had about half an hour before I took them down to play. Besides I had promised myself half hour of writing before we went down. And so ‘No’ was my instinct. “Yes,” I said as I thought of the dad on the telly.
I laid out the newspapers, brought out the colours, paper, paintbrushes and water in the balcony. I left the two of them peacefully mixing colours. Great, I thought, it works. I got out my laptop keeping my promise with myself. As I immersed myself in my writing I was conscious of Hrit going in and out of the balcony and happy laughter. “I should have done this before,” I thought vaguely.
 After a while, done with my piece I went out in the balcony and this is what I saw.

All the paints had been mixed together into one black muddle. Glasses of water had been poured to make a small black lake. The newspaper which was supposed to keep the paint off the floor had long since given way and lay in a soggy mess. The hands, feet, clothes hadn’t escaped the black either.
If I could have found the TV dad I would have dunked his head in the black pool. No luck, though. I let go the kids with the mandatory telling off… no losing my head.. pat on the back for that.
Then came the cleaning up. I rushed them to the bathroom and followed them wiping their tiny black footprints all the way. I told them to clean themselves while I cleared up the balcony. When I got back to the bathroom I was welcomed with another black mess – the washbasin, the soap, even the pot…
The idea of going down was given up in favour of a big tub bath. This is called having your cake and eating it too – first enjoy a mess-up and then have fun at the bath.

Bring on the foam

Learnings from the exercise:
1. Keep your Yeses close but your Nos closer.
2. Hands on dads are still just dads!
3. Everything you watch on the telly might not work for you.
4. Listen to everyone but follow your instincts.
5. Have faith in yourself. (Repeat 50 times)

While on ‘No’ I have to add that ‘No’ is certainly not all bad. All my life I’ve read books like ‘Don’t say Yes when you want to say No’. I’ve always found it extremely tough to say No even to strangers or to people who don’t really matter to me. Yes I have, though Hrit Naisha might not believe it. In contrast it comes a bit too easily to them. (Finish your milk: NO, Put down your gada: NO, Switch off the television: NO). It’s tough on me yet I hope they retain their ability to say No when they grow up, rather than turning into people pleasers.
Hrit Naisha if you’re listening.. always remember a ‘No’ clear and strong, will keep you away from a lot of harm. It rhymes too. Yay!