Saying no is way better than doing something you don’t want to do with a rotten attitude, and it’s definitely better than killing yourself doing something you don’t have time for. What’s not okay is saying yes when you really mean no. That’s dishonest. It’s unfair to you, and it’s unfair to the person you are committing to.
In that time, I learned a few tricks of the trade to help children working through big feelings, whether those feelings were triggered because you didn’t cut up the apples the right way or because your child is wrestling with anxiety.
It isn’t really about what we’re doing; it’s the fact that we are doing it together. The predictability and the priority are what make these moments into something a little more special. Honoring the ritual, looking forward to the small everyday occasions and prioritizing them, takes ordinary moments and makes them memorable.
As grown ups, we can do a little better here. We can teach our children to be kind, to make other people a priority. We can teach our children about why we have birthday parties -- not to entertain each other or to impress each other -- but to celebrate and honor one another. We can use birthday parties to teach about hospitality and gratitude.
Bad words aren’t bad. They are passionate and evocative. Their specific connotations are irreplaceable. All that was fine and dandy until the day that my eight year old dropped a box of dominoes and yelled out, “Dammit!” at his great grandmother’s house.