Monday, August 24, 2009

Nature, Nurture and the Power of No

My name is Becke and I am a pleaser. I can't help it -- I try to avoid it, and since I hit 50 some years back, I've really been working on releasing my inner bitch. But it's darn hard to teach this old dog new tricks.

There's a Jim Carrey movie called "Yes Man" about a guy who changes his life by saying "yes" to everything. "Yes" has always been my default response, along with "Sure, why not?" and "Well, okay . . . if no one else will do it." Now, don't get me wrong, sometimes I really enjoy these things. I strongly believe in the volunteer ethic, and I've spent a good part of my life volunteering at church, at work, at school, in the neighborhood and anywhere else it's possible to volunteer.

But sometimes, I just have to say "no." I don't like conflict, and have been known to get physically ill when I've been caught in the middle of unavoidable family nasties. I will lose sleep if I think I might have inadvertently offended someone. If you look up "wimp" in the dictionary, you'll probably find a picture of me.

This is not to say I don't stand up for what I believe in, and if anything threatened my kids when they were little (or now, for that matter) I would morph into a force of nature. But normally, in my day-to-day life, I don't just bend with the wind, I let it toss me around like a puff of dandelion seeds.

Like I said, I'm trying to change this, but it's an uphill battle. "No" doesn't come easy, even though all years of trying to please everyone has only brought trouble. Every disfunctional relationship I've ever been stuck in came from my inability to say a simple two-letter word, the first word most babies learn: No.

So how did I come to have two kids who are most excellent at standing up for themselves, and have been for most of their lives? My son took a little longer to find the confidence at his core, but my daughter was a firecracker from day one. The other day, I found a journal I'd kept when my kids were little. I laughed so hard at some scenes that my mascara was running down my cheeks.

I have a feeling only a mother would find those things as funny as I did, though -- I discerned a pained expression on my husband's face as his eyes darted around the room, looking for an escape route, when I started reading those selections to him. Even my daughter sighed a few times, AND THE SCENES WERE ABOUT HER.

Still, this one really made me think. It took place when she was about three years old:

Jessica was so funny in the store today. She was standing in front of the shopping cart while we were in line, and the lady in front of us bumped into her. "Excuse me, sweetheart," the lady said. Jessica stood up real straight and replied, "I'm not your sweetheart. I'm only Mommy and Daddy's sweetheart."

The lady said, "You're right -- my grandson is really my sweetheart, but you're so cute I could eat you up!" A most offended Jessica announced loudly, "I'm not
food -- you can't eat me up!"

I added a note: "My goodness! She certainly stands up for herself!"

When I read this to my daughter, who is now an adult, she didn't see anything unusual about it. But then, she never has had trouble standing up for herself. My son was a little shy when he was young -- something that will come as a shock to anyone who only knew him in high school and college. My husband certainly has no problem saying "no" -- in no uncertain terms -- in any situation, so maybe they learned this from him.

I remember reading that parents should be careful what they say, because their children will be listening, and taking notes. In this family, I'm the one taking notes, learning from them how to stand up for myself. You'd think by my age, saying "no" would come easier, but . . . no.


hope101 said...

New blog looks nice, Becke! Of course, knowing it's me, you can predict I'd enjoy the visual stimulation as well as the writing. :)

Becke Davis said...

Oh, I'm so glad you stopped by! Do you have a new post up? I'll return the favor!

Tes Hilaire said...


I'm a Yes, man addict too... that NO word is darn hard to say sometimes ;)

Becke Davis said...

Tes - Great to see you here! Any news on your submissions? I've got nothing to report.

Linda Green said...

I hear you, Becke.

I like your blog. And your quote by Thich is one of my favorites!

Becke Davis said...

Hey, Lin -- thanks so much for stopping by!

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