Honoring The No

When you’re the one driving, you are basically a voyeur to the backseat. There’s just not a ton I can do if a fight breaks out. The other day, a small, pretty standard one did. Cozy was playing with a Barbie in the car, which was snatched by Ben and Brynn. I didn’t become aware of much going on in the backseat until I heard Cozy say “no” and “let go” and “stop”, with increased volume. There was some shuffling and continuing to ignore her pleas. From what I can gather, a keep-away game had broken out. The next thing I know, one of the kids is crying and tattling that Cozy was hitting. This is usually the point when a parent gets brought in as referee. I honestly felt edified just listening to the whole thing go down. Is that a terrible admission? It’s been on my mind for days now. I couldn’t believe how the word “no” seemed to hold zero power. It was like no one even heard it and they were flabbergasted as to how this could have resulted in injury! It was obvious from my seat, that the entire drama could have been avoided by just honoring her simple, initial request. Being able to hear the unfolding of this sibling interaction made it unfair for me, as a parent, to just reprimand Cozy for hitting. I got spanked a lot of times growing up because a parent only caught the finale. I couldn’t help pointing out to the kids how they contributed to what happened. How rarely, if ever, does responsibility boil down to just one person and not a chain of events? Can we start a revolution already? Can a “no” require no explanation? I was raised celebrating free agency. I was encouraged to use the power of choice. But those are just words. Honoring choice also means honoring the agency of everyone else. We all understand OUR “no”. But somehow, someone else’s feels less valid and definitely less urgent. Sometimes our “no” is a loud proclamation, sometimes it’s just a “no, thanks. That’s not for me”. But either way, can it be the period at the end of a sentence? And I’m not talking about sexual assault and other big issues here, I’m talking about the ground level. The home, the family, is where “no” is first learned and understood. The most simple, everyday interactions where we are met with “no”. “No, don’t take that,” or “no, give that back”. We hear them all the time. No is a powerful word. And we all want it to be. We want to reserve the power of that word for when WE need it. And for some reason the ones that we aren’t screaming at the top of our lungs don’t seem to count. The quiet “no”? That’s the one we need to be better at sniffing out. Because sometimes “no” feels off limits, so we let you know 100 other ways we are saying “no”. 

I guess we have to be better listeners. I am of the opinion that we are all much more in tune with one another than we realize. But it’s a sixth sense so we tend to discount it. I think what we “sense”, but can’t see, is big important stuff. Like, THE most important stuff. And here is what I have learned- quiet “no’s”, turn into loud ones. They turn to desperation. And someone doing something out of character. Out of line with who they are. That’s our favorite time to show up and point out how out of control someone is. “Look at this monster hitting and flailing! The horror! Lock them away!” We need to honor the quiet “no”. Vocalized and felt “no”s. The “no” before it all went to hell. I promise you, there was one. Many. We can retrain ourselves to stop, drop and roll for a no. We can see it as an alarm. Think of what we could avoid?! If we love our people, and I know we do, then we must honor their “no”. We must give out what we desire. Because we will all have moments when we want to be able to kindly just say “no” and that be the end of it. Who’s with me? 

Cami Clark