A couple of weeks ago, we surprised my son with a trip to Sydney to celebrate his 10th birthday. It involved an overnight stay in a hotel, and we planned all sorts of activities, including walking across the Harbour Bridge, going to Luna Park, ice skating, and exploring Sydney. It was going to be a big couple of days, with lots of walking. We were going by train, so could only pack what we were happy to carry for two days. My husband and I put our stuff into two daypacks, drinks, warm gear, clothes, swimmers for the hotel pool, 'til our packs were full.
Just as it was time to leave, my daughter came to the door with a big old shoebox and her two fluffy kitten toys. Turned out she expected to bring the shoebox (the kittens' bed) with us on our big trip.
My first thought was, “No.” Of course we couldn't bring a shoebox on our trip—crazy idea! And it was easy enough to say, “No,” because it's always easy to say, isn't it? Just the one syllable, a single, unfussy word that ends discussions.
Except, there was my daughter's face. Fallen—just so confused and surprised and sad. She didn't fuss, or argue, she just looked crushed.
So I paused—even though the train was leaving soon, we had to get to the station, we had to go!—and asked a question, gently. “But it's so big. How were you thinking of bringing it?”
“I was going to carry it.”
“How would you carry it?”
“In a bag.” She gestured to my backpack. “Like that.”
I suddenly saw, as clearly as if they were in front of me, the two paths I could choose. One said, plain and simple, “No.” The other said, “This isn't so hard. Just think about it. Why not yes?”
I went to the closet and pulled out a kid-sized daypack we use regularly. I went to the shoebox—it was heavy with a double sheet folded inside as padding—pulled out the sheet, and found a teatowel to line the box. The toy kittens fitted snugly in the shoebox which fitted perfectly inside the daypack. I slipped the daypack on my daughter's back.
“Like that?” I asked.
“Comfy? Light enough?”
“And you can carry it for our whole trip?”
And she did. She carried it, uncomplaining, the entire two days we were gone. She played with her toys, tucked them into their shoebox bed at the hotel, and showed them the town. She was proud to be responsible, to be heard, to be trusted to take the load she'd volunteered for. She led me to yes, and it wasn't nearly as hard as I imagined. Once you open your mind to it, Yes can come with no pain at all.