I have never been good at it. I have never been comfortable with it. I doubt I ever will be, but if having two very small children has brought anything into sharp focus it is that the ‘n’ word is something I am going to have to learn to use. Most other things have become blurred – how much snot on a sleeve is acceptable, where to find my car keys, how much mess constitutes living in the proverbial brothel, how infrequently can I change a child’s nappy before it becomes neglect, not to mention my physical visual impairment due to lack of sleep – but this is becoming crystal clear… cuttingly crystal clear.
The Lion finds it easy to say, in fact, he just flat-out enjoys saying it, “No-no-no-no-nononononono!”
“Are you hungry?”
“Do you want to go outside?”
“Where are your shoes?”
But for me, it is like admitting a failure, a weakness, a fatal, Shakespearian, tragic flaw in my being that makes me incapable of doing what you quite clearly assumed I could do, otherwise you would never have asked. It sticks in my throat like an acid barb. It churns my stomach to lead. It gives me headaches and shoulder cramps and indigestion…
So when, after my two weeks of motherhood amnesia, I looked at my diary and realised that I had no less than five weekends requiring military-precision strategy, Blossom to miraculously start taking a bottle of expressed milk, hotels to miraculously halve their prices and double their availability, a new mega-sized car to appear in our driveway and 24-hours to stretch to at least 30 without the resulting increase in exhaustion and stress, I came to the realisation that those two letters were going to have to make an appearance. And fast!
My problem was that I had said “Yes” to each of these weekends while still under the influence of amnesia and delusions of super-motherdom, so it wasn’t just a matter of doing a Little Lion “no-no-no”. This was letting people down after setting them up. This was total responsibility for any fall out. This was wearing a “I FUCKED UP. I OPT OUT.” T-shirt for the next weeks. The only saving grace was that when I thought about clearing my calendar and actually being able to stop long enough to see my Blossom smile, to paint with my Little Lion, to plant a few trees in my neglected back yard, my heart let out a great sigh of relief. “NO” was going to save me, if I could just get it out.
I actually rehearsed before calling Mr Muscles and his soon-to-be-bride-whom-I-have-not-met. He answered and I choked. I stumbled. I told myself to say it as crude and as fast as I possibly could, after all, hadn’t he just recently chosen a good surf over a visit with me?
“I’ve been trying to work it out, but the logistics are just so hard, so I’m not sure I can make it to your reception, you know the wedding itself would be do-able, we’d just bring both the kids with us, but the reception is, well we could leave The Lion with a babysitter in a hotel room nearby, but it’s Blossom that’s the problem and I’ve done it before where I ended up spending the whole night outside with a screaming child and my boobs out and me getting more and more hysterical and Mr D. running in and out, ferrying canapes and soft drinks to me so I didn’t feel like I was missing out all together, and I just don’t think I could do that again and it wouldn’t be fair on anyone, so unless Blossom has some miraculous change in the next couple of weeks it’s just not looking good and I’m so sorry because I was so much looking forward to it and I swear, when she is sixteen and wants to go to this party and that party I’m going to say ‘no’ just to get my own back…”
Please make me shut my mouth now, before I cause any more damage.
Please make me simply say, “I am sorry, but we won’t be able to make it to your wedding.”
Please make me simply say, “No, thank you.” to all offers for assistance.
Please make me do what is right for my little family.
But NO! I baulked. I agreed to see how things pan out over the next couple of weeks. I agreed to “play it by ear”.
The weight on my shoulders has returned with the headache, the churning lead stomach and the indigestion. That little word is burning my throat and I am steeling myself for the next phone call to cancel yet another prior engagement made without due thought or consideration. I have enrolled in The Lion’s evening classes on saying “No” and I hope to learn, from the master, the art of “refuse first and change mind later”. Am I feeling good about it?