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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no . . . .

I am one of the first people who will heartily cheer, shout out a "Hail Mary," sing "hallelujah," and echo an "AMEN, sista," when someone can appropriately use the word "no" with their children. I have strong feelings about that word. I don't believe, as some do, that it's destructive, demeaning, and crippling to tell your child "no." I don't believe it's inherently negative. I don't believe I'm going to forever "mess up" my child if I tell him "no." I just don't believe it. Not for a second.

If Pip goes for the electrical outlet, what am I going to say in that split second I have to react before he's fried to a crisp? "Uh, honey? Honey? Baby boy? Here, baby, let's set you up over here with your favorite book instead."


{See? There. I used it.}

No. That is not what I would say with precious little time left to save my baby from imminent disaster. Instead, I'm going to appropriately BELLOW the word "NOOOOOO!" That will startle him, stop him in his tracks, and buy me enough time to rescue him.

"No" is a powerful word. It can be a life-saving word.

BUT . . . .

"No" has a time and a place.  "No" can become a very tired (and tiring) word.  "No" can lose it's power quickly. And "no" can be stiflingly restrictive and inhibitive.

Broken record, anyone?

For examples of this constricting, hyper-utilization of the word "no," let me share our recent experiences over at the high school swimming pool.  A couple of weeks ago, we purchased a family pass to the swimming pool that will last us for the summer.  The hours aren't ideal (M-F 12:00 - 2:30pm, Sat 1:00 - 6:00pm), but we figured they would suffice and we'd be able to get our boys in the water enough to make the purchase worthwhile.  For the first weekday visit, I would be flying solo with my three boys, two of whom are beginner swimmers, the third being my baby.  I packed up my wagon and made sure I had the usual suspects: towels, sunscreen, water, swim trunks, float for the baby, etc.  Once prepared, we drove the 60 seconds it takes us to get to the high school from our house. We walked out onto the pool deck after spraying ourselves up and down with sunscreen, grabbed the baby float, and high-tailed it to the water.

We didn't make it.

We were waylaid.

And reprimanded.

Why, you ask?

Because flotation devices aren't allowed.


Not even for babies.

I lost it.  I mean, I really did.  It's not easy to execute that type of preparation (herding cats?) only to be so summarily dismissed.  I gave that little, teenage lifeguard a piece of my mind about how the heck I was supposed to swim by myself with two beginners and one baby.  I griped about how it would have been nice to know this little informational gem before purchasing an entire summer pass. I groused about wanting a refund.

I have to give that little, teenage lifeguard credit.

She listened to my complaints and calmly pointed me to the office of the pool director and encouraged me to take it up with him.

Enter Dean.

I marched over there and gave Dean the same piece of my mind that I gave the little, teenage lifeguard.  I told him I wanted a refund.  I asked him why they have such a ridiculous rule and he responded that they aren't fans of flotation devices because they believe kids become dependent on them and can't learn to swim properly later on.  I pointed at Pip with my mouth open and reminded the guy that we were talking about a one-year-old here and shouldn't parents be the judge of this?  He just shrugged and asked if it would solve my problem to put one of his staff members in the water with us.  At this, I calmed myself down and thanked him kindly, but declined the invitation.  I told him I'd try it out one day by myself.  Despite my reserve, he had one of his lifeguards move down to the end of the pool where we were trying to make do with two arms and three boys.

In the end, it went okay.  (In fact, the circumstances even forced Bugga to learn to jump off the side of the pool, turn around and swim back instead of jumping to me and having me push him back.  I was glad for that.)

Unfortunately, that wasn't the end of it.

The "no's," I mean.

Today we decided to forgive and forget.  Today we made another go.  Today we took ourselves to the pool, arriving with a magnanimous determination to exercise a certain benefit-of-the-doubt.  Today was a new day.

A new day replete with a plethora of new (and equally ridiculous) "no's," that is.


So here's how it went down . . . .

Buddha was jumping into the pool from a couple of steps back from the side.  The lifeguard told him not to run and jump in.  I reminded him to respect his elders and please obey the rules (even though he wasn't really running).

Then Buddha was entertaining his wild side by doing corkscrew jumps into the water, only to come up with a lifeguard telling him a horror story about a kid hitting his head on the bottom of the pool and to be careful.
Then the boys wanted to play around the ramp that provides handicap access to the water.  I told them to just stay out of the way of the private swim lessons and they'd be fine.  Apparently, I was wrong, because no sooner had they arrived at the ramp then two lifeguards and the private swim instructor were on them like fruit flies on ripe bananas, hollering at them that the handicap ramp wasn't a play place, yadda, yadda, yadda.  The problem is, I've been to the pool before and noticed several children playing on the ramp without one word of reprimand.  The other problem I have with this is that I have never once seen a handicapped person using the ramp.  Not once.  And if there was one, I'm pretty sure I could remove my children before the handicapped person would be entering the water.  Surely they wouldn't roll onto the pool deck, over to the ramp, and, without pause, give the wheelchair a mighty shove into the water.  If such were the case, then I can admit there would be problems with my kids being in the way.  At any rate, I calmly asked my boys to, once again, respect their elders and the rules of the institution and remove themselves from the premises of the ramp.  So, they obeyed, though somewhat bewildered, and we situated ourselves on the steps.

The boys scouted out some kick boards and commenced playing at swimming pool boogie boarding. Not five minutes later, another lifeguard gets up, approaches, squats, and tells me that they had just made a rule that the public was not to use the kick boards!  WHAT ON EARTH?!  Seriously?  So, her declaration begged the obvious question and I, being rather exasperated by now, abandoned my formerly compassionate benefit-of-the-doubt demeanor, and asked it directly, "why?"  Her response, "Oh, a little girl shoved one down into the water and it shot out into her face and broke her nose."  Oh my land.  Come on!  I am sorry for that girl, but for goodness sake why are we penalizing everyone else for her unfortunate accident?!  Kids will be kids. Accidents happen.  Broken arms, legs, noses.  I have this eerie inkling that pretty soon they'll be telling us we can't use flippers and goggles, plug our noses, or open our eyes under water, because heaven forbid the pool be blamed for decompression sickness, sinus infections, or bloodshot eyes!  Upon relating today's events to The Chief, he asked, "So if someone drowns, will they close the pool?  Will they tell everyone else that because someone has drowned, no one can swim?"


No, no, no, no, no.  I've had it up to here with NO.

I want my money back.

And I want my own swimming pool, complete with a conspicuous lack of oppressive nit-picking.

Oh, and while I'm kitchen sinking, I'd also like a whole slew of trees with lower limbs still attached because FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE, CAN WE PLEASE LET KIDS BE KIDS?!


Courtney Wilson said...

Eew! I'm sorry! I don't know who to blame for the nanny state. Lawyers, lawmakers or parents.

Jen said...

the sue happy people in the world have ruined it for everyone, they all are so afraid of lawsuits :( Sucks! That's what I loved about NZ! They actually had real (and dangerous!) playground equipment....but no one cared! The kids played on it anyways! and we were allowed to have floaties in the pool! Even those arm ones! (which I don't like anyways, but if it's all you got!).

Amanda said...

Oh liz! I love it! Reading this I felt like I was talking with you and totally empathized with your situation! I can only imagine what I would have felt had this have happened to me. I am sure I would have walked away and just cried tears rather than confront the situation. You are a brave woman and I totally agree!
Jared says: They don't have a diving board...so obviously it is a lame pool.

Scott and Karin said...