I hate excuses. And I really hate excuses that are followed up with wordy explanations.
This Bible verse plays a loop in my mind when I hear someone flake out, half-commit, or simply don't show up...again: "All you need to say is simply 'Yes' or 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one." (Matthew 5:37---NIV)
I taught college English for nine years before I "retired" to stay at home with the littles and focus on my writing career. I've heard so many excuses. College students go beyond the whole "my dog ate my homework" and really step up their game. One student missed his group work day in class because his lizard needed tail surgery.
I've had students blame me for them failing the class. Newsflash: A 38% cannot be bumped up to a 70% passing. It's simply not ethical. And please, please don't become a nurse. I wouldn't want you being a nurse to anyone in my family---like ever---with that attitude!
Um, no, the paper deadline won't be extended until the end of the semester. It's only week #3.
You want 20% of your grade in extra credit? No. No. Just no. No, I don't want to grade an extra paper your plagiarize off the Internet, and then hand you a bonus 20%.
(Honestly, my preschool children act more responsible than many college students. Yikes!)
I have taken my years of teaching (and the numerous excuses) to heart when parenting my children. I require them to sometimes answer questions with a simple "yes" or "no." No evading. No bull. No extras. Yes or no. Did you whack your sister on the head with the toy truck?
There is freedom in truth.
I am a person who wishes to adhere to all my commitments. Be on time. Be organized. Have it together in order to not inconvenience or disrupt the other party. If you agree to do something, do it well.
I'm working to say no. When it doesn't benefit my family, my career, or my well-being, I need to say no. It's not because it's all about me. It's not because my family is the center of everyone's universe. It's not because I don't have a desire to say yes, because I really like a new project or idea.
It's because I have a reality. Not an excuse. A reality.
I have three young kids.
Doing just one outside activity a week (gymnastics) is too much at times. Getting out the door requires an hour (at least) of advance preparation. Multiple diaper changes and toilet breaks. Clothing changes galore. Three snacks per kid. And snacks to go. Oops---diaper blow out. No, you cannot take your top fifteen favorite toys. Triple check the diaper bag for supplies. Forget the diaper bag, realizing it only after I'm ten minutes from home.
Spending one evening with family? At least four bags (including two full-size suitcases).
Trip to the library? Sling for the baby, bag for library books and DVDS, purse, diaper bag, shoes on all children, sippy cups of water, and most likely multiple snacks.
Yes, the kids are pretty much my world.
They require so much of me.
And I have high expectations of myself.
I want to get this parenting thing right.
I used to get uber-annoyed when old ladies at the grocery store would say, "Wow. You've got your hands full." I hear it all. the. time.
But I'm beginning to believe, or make myself believe, that their observation is a compliment.
I'm doing a really good job. I've got this.
But I'm only going to do a good job if I'm realistic. No, I cannot attend your weekly Bible study for ladies. I'm ready to drink wine and watch trash TV by 3 p.m. each day, but I abstain until 8:30 p.m. when the kiddos are in bed. No, I cannot join your organization, meeting, or group. No, I don't want to meet you at the restaurant, with my three children, so I can pay $40 for lunch that will end up on the floor, on me, and all over the table. No, I don't have the energy to drive 45 minutes to a kiddie play place in the city where I will inevitably go crazy trying to make sure my children stay within my eyesight. No, we don't do anything before 10 a.m., or between 11:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., or after 7 p.m. Those times are for sleeping and eating.
The truth is that the reason I will say, proudly and honestly, that the answer is no because I have "three young kids," is because it's not about the kids. Well, not JUST about the kids. It's about me and my sanity, too. It's about making sure I'm happy and healthy. And it's about the kids learning that life is full of choices, and all choices have consequences.
My kids don't take cello lessons and they aren't learning Mandarin, nor are they in three sports all at once. The baby is in ZERO mommy-and-me classes. We aren't at the ball field at 9 p.m. each night. We eat almost every meal at home, around the dinner table. We kick a ball around in the back yard. We read books in the living room, sprawled out on pillows and afghans made by relatives. We create dance routines in the kitchen.
And we are all just fine.
Not just fine, but happy.
Free to play, be, imagine, rest, rejuvenate, have friends over, take an impromptu trip to the local park.
I'm going to tell you no. Often. Because I have three young kids.
It's our truth, our reality, and our joy.