Emily Parnell: Dream believer or crusher? When saying, “No,” squashes creativity

07/05/2014 4:01 PM

07/05/2014 10:48 PM

“Mom, mom, mom, mom, mom, mom,” I hear from the back seat as my husband and I are trying to finalize family vacation plans. Cooper and Sylvia are chattering, happy from an afternoon at the pool.

“Yes, dear?” I ask. Can they detect the trepidation in my voice? I suspect they can.

I should not feel so belabored to talk to my child. Yet I am. I fear that once again, something excessive — or nigh-on impossible — will be requested of me. I will have to say “no.” I will have to negotiate, explain and reason. They may become angry, tearful, feel underprivileged and bereft. Yet what else can I do?

My son continues his inquiry. He sounds happy, hopeful, excited. “Mom? There’s something I want to do by myself. I won’t need help, I know exactly how to do it. I’m going to need some rocks, a saw and some concrete. And a pump. Some fence. And I probably need an extension cord.”

My husband cocks his head to one side, wrinkling his brow, undoubtedly attempting to envision this project — this solo project — that our son is asking us to sign off on.

Cooper doesn’t pause: “Home Depot is right up here. Why don’t we just stop?” Hmmm. He also wants us to fund it, as his piggy bank is currently suffering from starvation.

A response is expected of me. “Uhhhh—” I muster.

My daughter comes to my rescue with a little tidbit of wisdom that strikes me as genius.

“You know, Cooper, you’re so creative that some of your ideas might not work,” Sylvia spouts.

I’m so proud, astonished at the perfection in this response. Complimentary, practical, non-confrontational.

He doesn’t pause.

“Where did she come up with that answer?” I whisper to my husband.

His head cocks the other direction, eyebrows still furrowed. “That’s what you told him. Last week. She’s just repeating what you said.”

I pat myself on the back for being so smart, simultaneously wondering why I don’t remember even saying that. It must be one of those blocked memories — a defense mechanism?

Cooper has not stopped talking. His list now includes a hose and a water source. Sylvia and I catch on at the exact same moment that live animals are involved, and I begin to see that he’s planning to build a turtle farm in our back yard. I’m pretty sure they don’t count as livestock, but I wonder if I could cite some sort of zoning issue — out of my control — to thwart his plan.

Sylvia, however, is now on board with him, thinking of starting a farm of her own. “Mom? Can I get a guinea pig?” My heart sinks a bit more, as I’ve already answered the guinea pig inquiry about 4,000 times this summer — always with a spirit-crushing “No.”

“I’m going to ask Santa,” she mutters, adding guinea pig right below flying carpet and treehouse with a real fireplace that works.

Her answer (I still hesitate to take the credit) to her brother was, indeed, genius and correct. It’s just hard to swallow, sometimes, that they’re so creative, all their ideas might not work. And I hate to be the one to put a damper on their dreams.

“You’re going to have to talk to your father,” I say, wondering how he’ll respond. We’re in this one together.

Overland Park mom and 913 freelancer Emily Parnell writes for Diversions each week.

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