Friday, May 7, 2010

A New Spin on Saying No

Today a friend complimented me on the fact that I set limits when it comes to outside obligations. The event in question was a backyard camping party hosted by friends who live in the country. Sounded like fun, E was game, and I think all who have been invited will attend. Except us.

Tonight, we will be camped out on our couch, for family movie night, complete with wine (for J and me), apple juice (for E), and popcorn for all. Over the past two weeks, both J and I have gone out of town, separately. It's been hectic and exhausting, and what our family really needs at this moment is to cuddle up on the couch together and just be.

Would it be fun to sleep under the stars with a bunch of our friends and their kids? Yes. Would it make for some great memories? Most likely. But what won't make for great memories is the inevitable moment when the stress and the exhaustion and the worry and the lack of time together catch up with us. Maybe family movie night isn't as exciting as backyard camping, but if the price of those memories is a tense, angry day because we've all pushed too hard, for too long, then not only are those memories not worth it, but they won't even be the happy memories I'd like them to be, because we'll all remember what came after.

I say yes to these kinds of events far more often than I say no, but just as I need time alone to recharge and reconnect with who I am apart from E's mom and J's wife, just as J and I need time alone together to just be a couple, instead of E's parents, our family needs time together to recharge and reconnect, as a family. I've realized that turning down an invitation doesn't have to be about saying no. I'm not saying no to backyard camping, I'm not saying no the hosts, I'm not saying no to our other friends who will be there. Instead, I'm saying yes to my family.

Over the past few months in particular, we've been making much more of an effort to get out and do things that we enjoy, such as museum visits. I feel compelled to make the most of our time, to really live life, but I've also realized that part of living life, and making memories, are those quiet moments when you are all together, cuddled under a blanket, sharing a bowl of popcorn. Those moments when you say yes to your family, leaving the rest of the world to its own devices, while you retreat, safe and secure, into yours.

Do you struggle with the ability to set limits on outside obligations? What are your criteria for turning down an invitation to a social event that your family would otherwise enjoy? Any good recommendations for movie night with a 3 year old boy?


  1. Jamie, this is encouraging to hear, because I'm the same way - willing, at least sometimes, to admit that I'd really rather stay home and enjoy some slow downtime with my guys. I used to have a very hard time saying no, but I find now that it's too easy to overexert ourselves socially (living where we do, it's also easy to underexert, so it's a fine line!). And when it comes to balancing a social life with a work life and a home life, home has to win sometimes.

  2. Saying no is tough! I like some advice I got recently to always answer maybe. With kids that gives you a chance to choose, with events it's good to see the overall picture.
    Two makes me say no (and yes) more often.
    I really like thinking of it as what you're saying yes to. Because, unless we're making really bad choices, we're never saying no to everything.

  3. I don't think camping out with my family in a tent sounds fun. I think movie night sounds a lot more fun, so you're going in the right direction, in my book! And I have to know--what movie are you watching? Because I really enjoy dinner with Mr. B and then a movie with my hubby once the kids are sleeping. Tonight? _An Education_.

    Love your blog, Jamie.

  4. To Jana - I agree that camping out in a tent doesn't sound fun. I really, really like my bed. But E was all about camping, and J likes it too, so sooner or later I will have to venture out into the wild (or at least my friend's backyard).

    We watched Cars. For the eleventy billionth time, but we all had a blast.

  5. We rarely say no to social invitations because we have so little of a social life (the effects of two residencies, moving, friends moving away etc, not because we are antisocial people). But I definitely think there is a lot of value in just staying home. Sometimes when we go to visit my parents, who live in the DC area, I don't tell any of my many friends who live there that we are visiting, because as much as I want to see them, a quiet weekend with my parents is so rare.
    Jana, I loved "An Education"

  6. I totally relate... if i don't spend time reconnecting at home base, I may be smiling at the social events but I am DYING inside. Either from the harsh words that I've used towards my husband or my nonexistent desire to parent above television. Or just from sheer exhaustion.
    Good call. And Cars rocks. (even three million times later)

  7. Kachow! Sorry ... couldn't resist. =>

    My favorite moments are the quiet ones, too, snuggled under a blanket with a big bowl of something yummy. Glad to hear you started your Mother's Day weekend with some lovely family time. Perfecto.

  8. Oh Jamie, good for you! You are so right, it's all about saying yes to your family. I'm learning to do it myself and find it amazingly powerful when I do. It just feels right.

  9. Recharging is soooo important to me and my family. We have hectic schedules on weekdays and while we pack in a fun weekend day, we usually leave one quiet day for us. If not, the next week will be a bad one.

    Good for you for knowing your limits and setting them to your advantage.