Raising Driftless Kids

“No” is one of the most powerful words in our language. It’s one of the first words to come out of our mouths when our children start toddling around, exploring and doing things that are undesirable or potentially dangerous.

In the theater world, especially when we are improvising, we are taught that “no” can stop the action of a scene almost instantaneously. We are trained to say, “Yes, and…” to move a scene forward. The affirmation continues the momentum.

What happens if we adopt “Yes, and…” in our everyday lives? I have begun having “Yes, and…” days with my kids. We do what they want to do — within reason.

On these days I let the children’s wishes take the lead. I have learned that we must budget. We use cash. Not only does cash force us to stick to our budget, but it teaches our kiddos money sense as well. Things we’ve already paid for are allowed outside our budget: the gas in our tank, our pool pass, our state park pass, membership to the children’s museum, etc.

Can we go see a movie? Yes, and … we have to pay for tickets and treats. If our budget is $20 and there are four of us, that’s pretty much all we’re doing for the day. However, we can pack a picnic and stop at a park on the way there or back.

Can we go shopping and out to lunch? Yes, and … if we’ve set a $50 budget and there are five of us, we’re going to have to be careful of where we eat and what we want to buy.

Can we go to the state park and have a picnic? Yes, and … because we have a $20 budget, we can pack a picnic lunch and have some ice cream at the concession stand.

The beauty of the “Yes, and…” day is that children can be masters of their own destiny. They learn to make decisions, work together, resolve disagreements and research options. In addition, with a budget, they are learning about the value of money and how to make payments in public.

Sometimes “Yes, and…” day keeps us at home, eating ice cream for lunch, finger painting for hours, having a water balloon fight, and crashing in the heat of the afternoon watching something on Netflix.

The beauty of “Yes, and…” day is that it doesn’t require much more than imagination and a willingness to give children a choice.

In the summer we have the opportunity to have more “Yes, and…” days. It occurred to me in early July that I had managed to over-schedule my children. I took a step back and gave myself permission to say “no” to an over-scheduled remainder of the summer.

Now we can “yes, and…” our way for the remainder of the summer with more memories and adventures. After all, they will not be little and willing to take these adventures forever.

Yes, and I will embrace this time with them and make the most of it.

Ainsley Rowe Anderson is a mom of three whose roots run deep in the Driftless Area mineral districts of Wisconsin and Illinois. She is the co-owner of Driftless Kids in Mineral Point and shares her thoughts on raising children in the Driftless in this space on a rotating basis with other columnists focused on education and kids.