beth woolsey

mess maker • magic finder • rule breaker • kindness monger

No, I don’t have it figured out. YET.

I don’t know how the two 5-year-olds snuck huge battle sticks (read: tree limbs) into our van without my knowledge.

FYI, I also don’t know how those chunks of granola bar found their way into my undies that one time, either. While I was still wearing them. So I guess life is full of little mysteries.

But anyhoo…

I didn’t know I had two stick-wielders in my van until we were on the road and the battle began.



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Oh my gosh. One day into my commitment to give up no and a reenactment of the Civil War – brother pitted against brother – was raging in my back seat.

Oh, that NO wanted to escape SO BADLY.

“Nuh. Nuh… Nuuuuhhhhh…” I stuttered.


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I swear I know other things to say besides no. I mean, I’m clearly not a person who’s often at a loss for words.

Like stop. How about STOP?!


Or names. Names would’ve been good. CAI! CAEL!




Instead, I froze.

“Nuh. Nuh… Nuuuuhhhhh…”


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And then I handed my boys a whole lot of wiggle room on a giant platter of wishy-washy.

“Hey, now! That’s probably not a very good idea,” I said. Convincingly.

I was assured by twin voices that smacking each other with tree limbs was, in fact, the BEST IDEA EVER.

“Yes, it is” they chorused.

And I couldn’t even say, “No, it’s not” so I went with the much more articulate “Nuh uh.”

Which they countered with a forceful “Yes huh” all while staying fully engaged in the combat at hand.


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“Nuh uh times ten.”

“Yes huh times twenty!” they yelled with enthusiasm.

“Nuh uh times one thousand,” I replied desperately.

“Yes huh times more than one thousand.”

They know how it works. Obviously. But I am their mother and I have been playing this very mature game for a LONG time. And also, I needed the thwacking to stop before a window or an eye got smashed. Those are hard to replace.

“Nuh uh to infinity which is the BIGGEST,” I said and then followed up with the all-powerful, “and I win! So HA!”

“Oh yeah?” answered Cai. “Well, you don’t win because I say, ‘Yes huh times GOD.‘”

“Whatever, Cai.” I find that modeling the use of appropriate words is an essential parenting tool, really. “And anyway, you can’t say GOD because God isn’t a number, so you’re disqualified and I still win.”

“I can, too! I can say God ’cause even if God isn’t a number, God is the BIGGEST OF ALL.”


You know what? Kids who are smarter than their parents ruin everything, you guys. And, by ruin everything, I mean I hate losing.

And you know what else? Parenting without no is like running with one leg tied behind my back.

And you know what else? Everyone’s eyes and all of my windows are intact. But not because I did anything useful.

And you know what else? I’m glad it’s almost the weekend. Because I clearly need a few days to:

a)  remember how to pull my car over and take sticks away from smarty-pants five-year-olds, and

b) rehearse a list of non-no responses while another grown-up is home, carrying an emergency kit stocked with eye patches and easy-access bottles of No.

It might be a long weekend.

Wish me luck!


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One response to “No, I don’t have it figured out. YET.”

  1. “We have a rule. Sticks stay _outside_. The inside of the car is not outside. Put the sticks down while I find a place to pull over. You _will_ put them outside where they belong as soon as I have stopped the car.”

    Or something similar… 🙂 Of course, we already _have_ a sticks-stay-outside rule, which perhaps you may not.

    In fact, I read a parenting article back when my 1st-of-5 was a baby, and it said that kids understand positive commands better than negative ones anyway (which makes sense from a linguistic perspective as well, but don’t let me get started on that!), because telling what not to do leaves them with the conundrum of figuring out what _to_ do instead.

    For instance, at the pool, saying “Don’t run!” involves a logical leap, whereas saying, “Walking feet!” tells them exactly what they need to do.

    Virtually all of my house rules have been couched in terms what they should be doing (instead of what they should not be doing), so giving up No for lent wouldn’t be too hard around here (so long as I could still say “stop” and “freeze”, of course…). Maybe you should try reformulating your house rules?

    Good luck!!!

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