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Bernadette Noll Headshot

Giving the Children What They Want

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I know it's unrealistic to think that as a mother of four, I can actually meet my children's every desire, nor do I feel that would really be healthy. So many of their wishes are just fleeting wants, escaped thought bubbles, here one minute and gone the next. But there is a part of me that feels it is my job to provide. And even when they're stating things that seem out of the realm of possibility, I get a bit weary of being the resident nay-sayer.

When my teen says she wants a car or my 7-year-old wants to skip school or my other lad wants to go to a skateboarding camp that costs an unholy amount of money, I don't want to be the one always saying no. I try, a lot, to acknowledge their wants with just a nod or some other acknowledgment of their desire, and not just squash them with a big fat "no." Sometimes I'm good at this and I can listen without judgment. And sometimes I forget. And there I am with a "We don't have enough money," or "You have to go to school because i have to go to work," or "There's no way in hell I'm paying that much for a summer camp. We have perfectly good summers." Until we're going back and forth, fighting, them defending their want and me telling them no way, no how. Or, perhaps worse, until they're walking away with their will to dream with a little chink in the shiny surface.

So the other day, I took my high schooler out for breakfast after all the others were tucked into their respective classrooms. As we sat at the table, I took out a notepad and asked if she was up for a little game called "What I really want is..." It's a writing prompt I love, really good for getting the creative juices flowing, but in this case, we played it like a game of ping-pong. Back and forth we went, each one starting with the prompt, "What I really want is..." Sharing, dreaming, pondering and imagining great things. As we shared, I made a list. For each of us.

Some of the things were simple, like a twice a month housecleaner or a new duffel bag. Some of them were bigger, like trips and book contracts. And some of them were even bigger still, like a new house or a visit from a favorite author.

And the amazing thing was, as we shared, though none of the things were actually being granted, there was also no judgment being passed on the things stated. And we could dream to our heart's content. Each of us feeling completely satisfied in the desire, without worrying in the slightest about the outcome.

So, whether you're feeling like the family naysayer or you just want to juice up the fantastical feelings of stating out loud what you really, really want, I highly recommend this little game. With your partner, your kids, your friends or just by yourself with a big sheet of blank paper. Sometimes knowing what we actually want is the first step towards satisfaction.

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