N is for No and Now

If you are a parent, remember when your child was about two years old. What was his or her favorite word? Chances are, it was the word “No.”

My youngest grandson is twenty-months old and already he has a clear grasp of the meaning of the word “No.” Not only can he speak the word, but he can also demonstrate its meaning. Want this gluten-free cookie? The cookie hits the floor. Want to go to bed? No. No! NO! (Loud vocals with accompanying clear actions.)

For two year olds – and those with a precocious grasp of the word “No” - the frequent use of that word is not just to annoy parents (though it does). It serves the vitally important function of helping the child to assert his or her separateness, their individuality, and their right (which they believe is manifest destiny) to have things their way.

Cheer up, parents of two-year-olds; the negativity you are hearing is healthy and will only last another twenty years or so.

It will only last twenty years or so because somewhere along the way, we begin to realize that absolute separateness is lonely and that individuality is important but can be overdone. We also begin (this is a long process) to understand that our rights entail responsibilities.

At that point, when we realize that we need other people and that we have responsibilities, we sometimes lose our ability to say the word “no” altogether. After all, if we say “no”, if we refuse to do whatever anyone wants us to do, they might not like us or, even worse, we might be seen as shirking our responsibilities.

The end result of this about-face in “no-ing” is that we end up doing an awful lot of things that we really don't want to do and we have less time to do those things that we do want to do. We're run ragged, tired and frustrated at being a door-mat, we feel resentful, we never seem to get everything we need to do (let along anything we want to do) done and we seem to be caught in a downward spiral.

The only solution is to re-learn the child-like (notice I didn't say “childish” - no temper tantrums, please) of saying “no”. That's it. Just that one word. You don't need to apologize or go into long explanations about why you don't want to do something. Just say no.

Start out slowly – we don't want you to go into culture shock. Practice saying “no” a couple of times a day. When you've assured yourself that the world will not come to an end if you do not pick up your daughter's dirty clothes or taxi your son to the mall for that CD he just has to have or do for your spouse what he or she could just as easily do for himself or herself or do that favor for your boss or....

Well, practice and increase the number of times you say “no” each day.

But, golly, gee whiz, what are you going to do with all that time that you used to spend doing all those things you couldn't say “no” to before?

This is where the second little word comes in. Now.

Is there something you want to do or need to do that you have been putting off because you were too busy? Do it now.

Stop putting off living your own life in favor of everyone else. Stop putting yourself on hold. Do it now.

I know that this is going to make you uncomfortable and make you feel like a bad mother or father or spouse or whatever. After all, you've built up expectations that people could walk all over you for years and now all the sudden you're being “uncooperative”, “unfair”, “unfeeling” or, worse yet, “selfish”.

If you're a woman, they will probably suggest that you are going through “the change” - and so you are - but it is not necessarily “the change” they are talking about. It's merely a change for the better. If you're a man, they might say **wink**, **wink** that you're in a mid-life crisis and wonder what kind of shenanigans you're up to. However they phrase it, they will try to find some way to make you feel bad about what you're doing. Don't let them.

Again, you might want to start slowly. One thing at a time. Now. Want to luxuriate in a tub full of warm water and fragrant bubbles? Do it now. Want to write a book? Do it now. Want to take up guitar lessons? Do it now. Want to travel and see the world? Do it now.

If you say “no” often enough and do the things you want to do “now”, you might find that you are happier. You might even find, in time, as they adjust, that those who love you are happier, too, because you are no longer so harried, resentful, and unhappy.

It won't hurt to try, will it? No. Do it now.

Author's Bio: 

I am a Baby Boomer who is reinventing herself and an internet entrepreneur focusing on self-help for the Baby Boomer generation. I spent sixteen years serving as pastor in United Methodist congregations all over Kansas. Those congregations were made up primarily of Baby Boomer or older members, so I developed some expertise with the Baby Boomer generation. I am now on leave of absence and living in Atchison, Ks. with my thirty year old son and my two cats. I also help my daughter, also living in Atchison, with three sons, ages 8, 6, and 18 mos, while their father is in Afghanistan. My website is found at http://www.for-boomers.com