The most important lesson I have learned in ten years of being a mother is how to say “No!” and mean it.
Most of my life I just went happily along. I had a very big problem saying no. I remember wanting to, but just not being able to verbalise the word.
I suppose I worried about what people would think about me.
Now I know that sometimes no is the kindest thing to say and the most responsible.
And I do not mean in a “Does my bum look big in this?” kind of way.
As a mother I have learned that no is the most important part of my vocabulary.
NO. You may not eat M&Ms for breakfast because you need real food in order to grow up and not suffer from childhood obesity leading to heart attacks and other dread diseases.
Only, I don’t say all of that.
NO. You may not play in traffic, because some idiot in a Beemer will run you over and leave you flatter than a pancake.
NO. You may not stay up all night watching Doctor Who, because you have to go to school tomorrow.
Which leads directly onto…
NO. You may not stay home from school, because you have to get through 12 years of hell before you can study to be a robotic engineer.
And of course…
NO. You may not have every Monster High ever created, a Ducati motorbike or a MacBook Air, because money does not, contrary to your belief, just spit endlessly out of ATM machines.
I’ve learned also to translate this new-found word into other areas of my life.
NO. I will not work overtime because you messed up the brief.
NO. I will not miss my child’s bedtime story because you think you’ve come up with an idea that will “change the face of advertising as we know it”.
NO. I will not sacrifice good grammar and punctuation to fit your layout.
NO. I will not work for a pittance.
NO. I will not walk away from the 45k you owe me.
I know that 45k for you is pocket change.
I know you couldn’t care less that my daughter didn’t get her birthday party, that my credit rating is shot to hell or that the deposit for my children’s new school has to be paid by next Monday.
I know you don’t, but what you’ve forgotten is that I do.
I do care. A lot.
I cared when you promised the money would be in my account the very next day.
I cared enough to do more work for based on those promises for a client I also care deeply about.
I cared when you took my final demand and threw it in my face.
So, I will not apologise for the letters I have sent to your client and your business partners.
If those don’t make you realise how serious I am about this, you haven’t met my lawyer.
NO. I do not accept that crime in this country has been reduced to acceptable levels when three of my neighbours have been held at gunpoint in the last 52 hours.
No is a powerful word.
Use it wisely and use it well.