Posted by: Hannah | 06/18/2013

I said “no”

Today someone sent me a link to Stacey Conner’s blog “Is There Any Mommy Out There?”, presumably because her latest blog post is not only hilarious, but also practically guaranteed to make my left eye twitch for most of the day.

If you don’t have time to read it, she’s talking about this new horrible phenomenon called “Yes Day” that is apparently running rampant through the ranks of those mommies who want their kids to be their friends, all the time, forever.

Yes Day! is a children’s book by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. I’m going out on a limb here and assume that Amy Krouse Rosenthal doesn’t have children, or else she perhaps has one child, the kind that rigidly adheres to order and rules.


What do you call a day when every answer is yes? I’M PRETTY SURE YOU CALL IT A VERY BAD DAY.

It’s just what you think it is – a day where every question a child asks is answered with a “yes”. Pizza for breakfast? Yes. Ice cream sandwiches in front of the TV? Yes.

In the book, it’s just a delightful day of whimsy and joy with puppies riding unicorns and (presumably) parents re-discovering the magic and wonder of childhood.

In reality, I think we all know where this would end. Especially if you have multiple children.

Look, my kids never stop asking questions NOW. And that’s without the explicit understanding that they would always hear a “yes” in return.

I feel about this book the way I feel about some of those posts going around right now where moms plead for an end to yelling. I read one just the other day where the mom had asked her son – repeatedly – to iron his shirt and get in the van for a trip to somewhere important. The kid refused to iron said shirt and when they were finally all in the vehicle, she looked in the rearview mirror and saw a surly kid and a still-wrinkled shirt. I don’t give a shit about ironing – the last time I used my iron it was to make crayon-shaving stained glass pictures – but I do care about kids listening when they are given instructions. This mom’s reaction was just what mine would have been; she removed the kid from the car and held him firmly by the arm while she pointed him at the house and told him to iron. that. shirt.

The difference is that I would not have been so overcome by angst and guilt when the kid sprang forth with crocodile tears that I said “never mind about the shirt!”, hugged the kid, and then wrote a long blog post about how every child is a miracle.

Do I yell? Sure do, when it’s necessary. I have my Stern Mommy Voice and I employ it, thanks. Do I say “no” to my kids? Good lord, all the damn time. But I also say “yes” a lot, too. My kids are in Little League, they take swimming lessons, they often get dessert if they eat their dinner and we go to restaurants a couple of times a month. They have thirty squillion pieces of Lego and this summer when we go on vacation they’re getting to run the bases at Rogers Centre. I’ve memorized I don’t know how many books from repeat readings on demand and I can sing the theme songs to several kids’ shows.

I don’t feel like my kids are deprived of fun moments and good times even though bedtime is non-negotiable and they aren’t allowed to eat as much candy as they want.

This stuff drives me nuts. The standards that competi-mommies set for parenting are, I would argue, not achievable; not only that, I don’t want to live in a world full of people who had their every desire satisfied while never being accountable for their actions.

I mean, how on earth do you raise little kids if you’re never going to deny them anything? It makes no sense. Sure, today they want pizza for breakfast, and why the hell not? But tomorrow they might want to play with matches. Next week they’ll want to stay up until midnight, every night. In ten years they’ll want to take the car without asking. Learning to cope with disappointment and denial is a key part of development.

As for the yelling… well. Sometimes I need to yell, just to be heard over the din. Sometimes, I need for them to understand that I mean business, I am not fooling around, you get that fork out of that light socket RIGHT NOW. Sometimes, I lose my temper because if an adult talked to me like that, they would get the rough side of my tongue. But I can’t imagine what would happen to my stress levels if I never outwardly expressed anger. There isn’t enough chocolate in the world to keep that under wraps until my kids leave home.

What do you think? Would you give your kids a whole day where their every wish was granted? And do you yell?



  1. Sometimes I hate our generation of mothers. Because a lot of us are sooky babies who need constant mental cuddling to alleviate the guilt and stress of living with the consequences (big and small) of our actions.

    That being said, I wouldn’t mind a book or a movement in which my children answered YES! to every question or suggestion I made.

    • I think I’ll ask my kids for a “yes day” next year for Mother’s Day. EVERYTHING I WANT, CHILDREN. YOU MUST AGREE.

      And yes, sometimes our generation of mothers makes me weep for humanity. It also makes it hard to find other moms that I can be friends with – because those sooky-baby moms and I will not get along.

    • Love this comment, Nan. Agree on all fronts.

  2. Hahaha! NO. No I would not.

    • You would not, could not, in the rain? Or in the dark? Or on a train?

  3. Hear hear!! And. Here here!

    Yes indeed, I certainly answer no – often. As a matter if fact, there are times when I don’t offer an explanation of why. Sometimes, we have to keep on keeping on without understanding why.

    As to yelling, yep. If I have a chance to be heard in this house at times, it’s mandatory. We are active and busy and chatty and living life to the fullest. That leads to having to use my voice to it’s fullest now and then.

    • “Sometimes, we have to keep on keeping on without understanding why” – YES. So agree with this. If there is a good reason, I’ll give it, but sometimes I say no because I said no. I don’t always get explanations from the universe when my desires aren’t gratified, so it’s an important lesson to learn!

  4. HA!!

    You’ve heard my mom voice. Anger is an emotion that I don’t deny my children (for example when I say no) and it’s not something that I pretend I don’t get. And telling my boys that perhaps you shouldn’t give your brother a pile driver on the kitchen floor in my sweet voice just doesn’t get the message through in the same way as my mom voice.
    If my kids see me handle disappointment, anger and frustration without completely losing my shit, then hopefully they’ll learn it too. They also see I’m not perfect and perhaps will learn not to expect perfection from themselves. They see me try to do better, and apologize when I do less than I should. I really hope they’ll learn that.

    I wonder if these ppl who write this stuff are for real, or if they make this crap up to try to win the imaginary best mom award.

    • Yes, I will never be the kind of mom who gently trills “make good choices!” as my children are busily taking the TV apart for fun.

      I have met moms like this, so sadly, they are not making crap up. They make me tense, just being around them, but I do know them. We’ve actually drifted very far from an old friend because she’s this kind of mom, and it’s painful to be around her. (And her horrible children, but that’s another story).

  5. Oh my god, the yelling thing. I had a “friend” send me a link to an article entitled “10 Things I Learned When I Stopped Yelling at My Kids.” Because, you know, that’s all I fucking do is yell at my kids all damned day. I LOVE IT. I read the article, and when I got to the part where the Mom is screaming into the toilet, so she doesn’t yell at her kids, I thought, “wow. That poor woman’s heading for a nervous breakdown.”

    While I do think that we have a responsibility to keep our stress about things that have nothing to do with the kids from affecting how we respond to their behaviour, I also think if I’ve repeated myself a dozen times, and start to suspect that when I talk all that’s coming out is buzzing, you damned right I’m going to raise my voice, if only to make sure my kid hasn’t suddenly gone deaf.

    I think it’s important to for them to see sometimes how their behaviour affects us. That they can’t be jerks and expect us to be patient benevolent Saints all the time. Sometimes they really need to know when they’ve pushed us too far, so they know where that boundary is. Being kids, they have no clue, and there’s no better teacher than experience.

    That being said, I also think it’s possible to enforce boundaries compassionately. “Yes I understand you don’t want to clean up your toys, I’m sorry you’re upset, but yeah, you still have to clean them up.” I think the woman you mentioned could have hugged her crying son, and *then* still followed through with making him iron his damned shirt.

    • Screamed into the toilet, huh? Wow. WOW. Just yell at your kids, lady. Really.

  6. Oh my god, the title of that book filled me with so much hostility that it was all I could do to finish reading your entire post before coming to comment because I have thoughts.

    First, sure, yes day may sound great to some, but as I think I’ve mentioned in the past, I’ve discovered that “special” things with kids ALWAYS rebound in my face. Every time we break routine and do something special, H and I pay for it as parents, and I don’t mean monetarily. Let the kids stay up late to see fireworks? Fun! The next day? Total shit show of exhausted, crabby kids who make everyone miserable. Take kids for ice cream after soccer practice? Choose your own adventure: youngest fills up completely, won’t eat any dinner, wakes up at crack of dawn starving and crabby OR oldest asks to go to ice cream after EVERY practice for days until I make clear that it was a SPECIAL thing, not an every time thing. That doesn’t mean we don’t do special things, but it does mean that I choose those things carefully and evaluate the backlash before doing them. A yes day would turn into an exercise in anger, frustration, and reeducation with one or both kids for days afterwards, so it doesn’t even make a long list of special things I’d consider.

    Second (no, I’m not done yet, where are you going?) I really think kids need to hear no regularly. I mean I don’t say no just for kicks. If I’m saying no, there is a reason why we are not doing that thing they are asking for and chances are good they already know the reason. Kids need boundaries and clear expectations. Without them their lives are stressful. It’s not that much different from my job. I’d never take a job in which I didn’t know before I started what the expectations for my position were and if they turned out to be totally other than what I thought or a shifting sand of changing expectations I’d probably quit because it would be too stressful. No is an important concept for everyone.

    • EXACTLY. If one day was “yes day”, why not every day? If on one rainy Saturday when I had a migraine I let the boys watch as much TV as they wanted, why is that not the rule for every weekend? The fallout from doing “special” things with young kids can be brutal, for sure. We’ve experienced it too, and it SUCKS. It makes you not want to do anything for the ungrateful little monsters, ever. 🙂

  7. I couldn’t agree more with your sentiments!!

    As to your questions…NO WAY IN HELL to the every wish granted situation. Even on birthdays there has to be limits – for their good (i.e. to much sweets + not enough sleep/rest = feeling horrible) but also for my sanity. Also, with multiple kids inevitably one kiddos wish is the most horrible idea EVER to another, right?

    Yelling? I call it “using my strong voice” 🙂 But yes, if needed. In our house – with 4 of my own 6 and under come fall – I can’t imagine them even hearing me without a loud voice. And if they’ve continually pressed the limits or pushed buttons intentionally, you betcha!

    • I think it’s understanding, as you do and some of the other commenters have said, that kids ARE manipulative and WILL push your buttons intentionally. So many well-meaning parents that I know honestly think that kids are incapable of acting out of malice or ill-will. Their innocence is both sweet and a little sad.

  8. I yell too much. And the new NEVER YELL AT YOUR KIDS phenomenon is giving me an ulcer. So your post and the comments in it had my crying in relief that maybe I wasn’t such a terrible person and I am not wrecking my kids. Because I was starting to feel like a crappy parent, and everyone else could keep it together all the bloody time.
    And the whole saying yes thing? If i said yes all day one day we would have a trampoline, a dog, be on our way to disney and I would have put the 8yo up for sale on Kijiji by request of the 7yo.
    Last summer on vacation in American Target there lots of products that my kids had never seen before and for the first time EVER when they pointed out something interesting instead of my standard “it’s cool, but we are NOT getting it” I said, “put it in the cart”. By about the 3rd time they were losing their little minds, SHE IS LETTING US HAVE ICED GOLDFISH, IT IS BETTER THAN CHRISTMAS” but it was ONLY fun because I do say no more than I say yes. So for 10 minutes of yes, it was pretty cool.
    But 10 minutes of yes is about all I can do.

    • I love how you envision your “yes day” going. We would also have a trampoline, the dayhome would be closed so 7yo could move all of his possessions to the nap room, and there would be a cuddly new guinea pig RIGHT NOW because clearly an attention-starved cat and a 90lb Labrador Retriever are not enough pets.

      I guarantee you I yell as much or more than you do. I also use my “do not piss me about” voice, which is not loud but is certainly intense. You’re a good mom. Chin up. 🙂

      • UNPROMPTED BY ME, the 7yo tonight asked if we could trade in the 8yo for a girl. So, even though that last line was said in jest, tonight it was proven. I sorta kept track as we ran errands after reading the article and if today was yes day in JUST 2 HOURS I would have said yes to:
        A cookie at Sobeys
        A cookie at Safeway (we did not go to either of these stores)
        Ice cream
        Climbing a decorative boot outside the Western store
        running the aisles in Shopper’s drug mart
        A 30 dollar umbrella
        driving to our errands instead of walking (all in a three block radius)
        Two new books
        unlimited screen time
        riding their scooters into the van
        a happy meal
        late bedtimes.
        And can you imagine how much more if these two turkeys figured out i was saying yes?

        • You don’t let them run the aisles at Shoppers’? YOU MONSTER.

          This made me laugh and laugh. Trade in your brother for a girl, kiddo? You would live to regret it. 😀

  9. Most kids already have “Yes Days”, it’s called spending the night with Gramma. Or Christmas. Or Halloween. Or their birthday.

    All that leaves like what, a week a year of “learning self-restraint” days?

    • Oh, nights with the grandparents. Yup. That’s pretty much yes day for my kids. Or it used to be, until I told my parents to stop giving in on certain things (pop & candy consumption, bedtime when you feel like it, unlimited screen time) because they would come home from a weekend away and be total assholes for at least a week.


  10. Are you KIDDING ME????? Perhaps because I barely control household as it is the whole idea totally repulses me. Perhaps families that NO is used more than yes or the kids are especially deprived by not having slacker moms like me this would work, but in the real world….ugh.

    • Yes, I’m honestly stumped as to how this would work in the real world. I think most kids would be riding roughshod over the whole system by 10AM.

      • Mind you….I read a FB update or something about how THRILLED some kids were because she LET them eat pizza in front of the tv. Em….that is sort of normal in my really for ME a Yes day would push things WAY over to calling child services sort of thing

  11. My husband’s comment: “Any parent who would read that book for any purpose other than to mock is doesn’t need it: they probably say ‘yes’ far too often as it is.” Smart man.

    With five toddlers in my house, I can only imagine the chaos if I tried that. “Yes, you can take her toy.” “Yes, you can hit her for taking your toy.” “Yes, you can bite her for hitting you for taking your toy.”

    Ye godz. Where would it end? In someone’s death, mutilation, or dismemberment. SERIOUSLY.

    • And this is how “Lord of the Flies” happened.

  12. This is a joke, right?

    I’ve been doing a lot of “when you are doing this, you are showing me you are not ready to (own Lego, play with friend, etc)”, but that is as I am removing him from the situation (And after I’ve said no). We’re not particularly strict parents, but we’re strict enough that half a day at grandma and grandpa’s is very exciting.

    If I said yes to my child all day today, I would have said yes to:

    him moving in with a friend
    his friend moving into our home
    too much chocolate to count
    chocolate for breakfast
    dropping things out of our second story window
    many hours of television
    jumping into a bog

    • Jumping into a bog! AWESOME.

  13. I’m going to assume that people who need a Yes Day are people who say No a lot more than I do. For example, I don’t give a flying fig if your shirt is ironed. My shirt isn’t ironed. I don’t care if your socks match or your hair is neat or you wore those pants yesterday, as long as they don’t smell…etc. I let a lot of stuff go that other, more ‘sweat the small stuff’ people might not. Perhaps if you bug your kids about stuff all the time, Yes Day makes sense.

    Like the mom acquaintance of mine who tells her son he cannot: take off his sweater in the playground unless it’s 20C, run as far as the tree where all his friends are, pick up any sticks, or sit on the grass unless there is a blanket underneath him. That’s four nos in four minutes. That kid needs a yes day.

    In other twee news, that Fill My Bucket book makes me gag.

    And yelling is only for special occasions.

    • You are making a good point about how some families probably need a “yes” day, if only because their kids have no freedom at all. I’ll concede that.

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