Why "NO" Means "I LOVE YOU"
To my beloved child, Let me begin this letter by telling you the one thing I know with absolute certainty… I love you. More than you can imagine. No matter how much I say it, the words just don’t seem to carry enough weight to express just how genuinely I mean that. I love you. I know that must be hard to believe at times, because it seems like I’m always standing between you and the things you’d so dearly like to experience. Always jumping in between you and the goodies in the checkout aisle. Always denying you the wonderful, mystical adventures that go on after you go to bed Never allowing you, not even once, to bring your stuffed animals into the tub, even though Captain Panda clearly needs a bath. Sometimes I get to feeling like our entire relationship consists of you asking for the opportunity to try new things, and me turning you down. And since I’m the one with all the authority and control, I can only imagine that you must feel it even more. So please, try to understand, I don’t deny you these opportunities because I’m some sort of control freak, because I’m overly protective, or because I’m the villain in a Disney movie who can’t stand to see kids having fun. And whatever you do, don’t ever get the idea that it’s because I don’t love you. It precisely because I love you so much that I have to tell you no. Believe me, I’d like nothing more than to make your every wish come true. I’d like to feed you ice cream pancakes every morning, give you free reign to draw on the walls, let you play on the swings until you barf, and invite you to climb into bed with me every night. But as your mother, I have to be more than your preeminent playmate. I’ve vowed to raise you to be respectful, responsible, considerate and strong, and that means discipline, on my part and yours. It means teaching you to follow the rules, as unfair as they may sometimes seem. It means teaching you about the downside of life, as well as the joy and euphoria in it. It means correcting your behavior when it’s rude or hurtful to others. It means doing a whole lot of things that I wish, so sincerely, that I didn’t have to do, but that I know will make you a better person. Because when you get older, you’ll find that these rules still apply. Don’t take things that don’t belong to you, play nicely with others, wait your turn, be polite, and don’t cry when you don’t get your way. (You may find that some grown ups don’t always follow these rules. Ignore them. They’re just like the kids at the playground who won’t play nice. Nobody really likes them very much.) Loving you means so much more than just making you happy. We have such a short time together in this mother-and-child stage of our lives, and I wish every second of it could be spent with us playing, dancing, singing and smiling. But I’m willing to play the bad guy, and to have you hate me occasionally, because I know that’s what loving a child, really loving a child, requires. So whenever you feel like I’m acting like a dictator, please remember, there’s method to my madness. Your mom didn’t get this far in life without a few rules of her own. And years from now, when you have kids of your own, and we’re reminiscing about your childhood over a glass of wine, you’ll turn to me and say, “Thanks for being firm with me, Mom. I needed it.” And that, dear child, is an order.