The Restorative Power of No

In my head and in my heart, I have been a mom for a long time. Hannah* has been the daughter of my heart since the very first moment the Holy Spirit whispered the knowing in the deepest part of me.

But now - in every moment, in every way - I am a mom.

A mom to a beautiful, talented, clever, almost-nine-year-old.

A beautiful, talented, clever, almost-nine-year-old who is already testing the boundaries and seeing just how firm or wishy-washy her new mom's boundaries are.

I was hoping for a few more days of wonderful-look-how-well-we-get-on-ness before the boundary testing began. Not that there hasn't been a whole lot of wonderfulness in the past two days, but I liked saying "yes" and really would rather not say "no" as often as I have in the past two days.

It is more than apparent that my child has a mind of her own and directing her in the way she should go will at times prove a big test of my character.

Saying no when she wants more cold drink (soda) after a big glass full. Saying no to buying tons of snack items at the grocery store. Saying no to playing games on her new Kindle her grandparents bought her. Saying no to the extra cupcake she tried to sneak when the social worker was visiting. Saying no when she wants to where her new pajamas instead of her old warm ones. Saying no and having to give her a choice between changing or not getting a bedtime story when she doesn't comply. Saying no and you better go to sleep when I come to the room and find she's painting her fingernails, using nail polish which does not belong to us, instead of trying to go to sleep. Saying no and "I can smell it" when she lies and says she wasn't.

One no after another no after another no.

A whole lot of yeses in between, but even one no feels like too many. I feel like writing apology notes to all of the parents I've worked with in the last year who couldn't say no, to tell them, "I understand now. I'm sorry I didn't before. Saying no is terrible."

But I also know because I've worked with those parents and I've been involved in the lives of so many families, saying no is good.

Sometimes my no helps my child more than my yes just as sometimes God's no helps me more than his yes.

We've had lots of pouty-faces - real and pretend - a little whining and a few tears, but so far Hannah and I seem to be setting and bumping into boundaries without getting hurt. Able to give hugs and I'm-sorries and I-love-yous and forgive the offense. I pray and hope with each new boundary she's learning to trust me.

My friend Julie sent me some encouragement last night after I shared with her about the nos. She reminded me it is a great thing, "moving from Auntie to Mama." I am "beginning the important work of repairing broken walls and restoring her heart."

It's something I am trying to keep in mind today. Every "no" is a transition from Auntie to Mama. Every "no" is a bit of her heart restored.


*Hannah is a pseudonym. In order to protect her identity until she is fully and legally mine, I use "Hannah" in all online activity regarding my someday daughter and her adoption.