I love you enough to say No

This is part 4 in a series on The Family

For part 1, click here

For series synopsis, click here 

No.

It’s surprising how often it is the first word a small child will speak.

Well, maybe not that surprising considering it could be the word they hear the most throughout the day.

No, don’t touch that hot stove.

No, you can’t have that sharp knife.

No, don’t hit your sister and make her cry.

These aren’t parents using bad skills; they are good parents trying to keep up with the whirlwind that is a child reaching and touching and exploring more quickly than anyone can keep up with.

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And, they are trying to teach a child that there are things that are okay, and things that simply aren’t okay.

They are teaching a child to choose.

I can remember many conversations in my childhood about this very topic. Some were around the kitchen table, some were during family home evening, some were when my Dad and I were driving in our old black truck.

It is just as clear today as it was then. My Dad would look us in the eyes, making sure that he had our attention, and say:

I love you enough to say No.

family6I won’t insult you by assuming you don’t understand what he was teaching us. A parent who only says Yes isn’t able to love someone else more than they love themselves.

                                                                              (Source: LDS Media Library)

Being a good parent is all about loving the child more.

I think we have talked before about what happens when you put a herd of cattle in a new pasture. Immediately the group will head for the fence line and make the rounds, checking for holes or escape routes. Once they have determined that there really is no way to break out, they contentedly graze through the field, filling themselves on the abundant grass right in front of them.

Of course, in every herd there is the rebel. It’s that lone steer that just won’t leave the fence line alone. There is something about aching to walk on the other side of the fence that is more important than enjoying the belly-deep grass in his side of it.

cattleIt’s kind of funny, but when a hole is found, the culprit rarely will escape alone.

He always looks for reinforcements to blend in with. You know, trying to be lost in the crowd when capture comes.

And capture always comes.

It took a while to figure it out, but eventually we would pinpoint which of the steers was the leader of the trouble.

In fact, my dad named two of the worst perpetrators just that: Trouble, and Trouble II.

They continued to always push the boundaries, crash the fences, leave the rest of the group.

Even when being hauled off to the slaughter house because they were, well, just too much trouble, they continued to climb the cattle rack in the truck, threatening to be running loose on the streets of North Logan.

It seems that they just couldn’t ever accept the answer No.cattle2

The moral? While the rest of the herd had all they wanted to eat and drink during the warm summer months, and guaranteed all they needed to make it through the long winter ahead, Trouble and Trouble II became hamburger.

My dad often found ways of teaching us life lessons through practical experience on a ranch.

Knowing that I preferred to have warmth and food through the cold December and January nights, I wasn’t offended in the least to be compared to one of these fence checking cows.

Because in truth we are all fence checkers.

Everyone has an innate need to know where the boundaries are; we need to know where we can and can’t go.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

fatherhoodThe problem comes when we don’t trust those who erected the fence.

Those who have come before.

Those who told us No.

                (Source: LDS Media Library)

Instead, we spend our time searching the trail-worn and bare perimeters for potential holes, certain that what is on the other side must be better for the mere fact that we are told we can’t have it.

If I can’t have it, it must be something I want.

Right?

No, don’t touch that hot stove.

No, you can’t have that sharp knife.

No, don’t hit your sister and make her cry.

Hmmm.

I learned very early on that I was of value. I was important to my parents. I was worth their attention and time and effort.

Because they could see that I could become so much more than just a small child who needed to be told what to do all the time.

I was loved enough to be told No.

And as a result, my world opened up to more Yes’s than I can count.

sunset3

Who do you love enough to say No to? Maybe more importantly, who do you love enough to hear No from?

And accept it.

Embrace the true meaning of love enough to accept No today, ensuring the freedom to choose Yes tomorrow.

 

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