I’m a “Yes First” Person, and I Want my Kids to be Too

I’m a “Yes First” Person, and I Want my Kids to be Too


Two years ago a friend asked if I wanted to volunteer to make calls for a political candidate we both supported. Besides voting, about as politically involved as I’d been since college was the occasional sarcastic Facebook post, so I was excited about the opportunity.

The wheels in my head immediately started turning… could my 6-month-old make it through the evening, aka Universal Grumpy Baby Time, without her human pacifier? Could I make it work if I nursed her right before I left, drove separately to make a quick escape, was home within about three hours from the time I left…

No, I didn’t make it to the phone banks. But before ultimately arriving at the decision, my brain defaulted to “how can we make this happen?!”

I had never really thought about it before, but it suddenly dawned on me that a lot of other people’s brains probably didn’t work like mine. When a new opportunity presents itself, plenty of people instinctively start with an affirmative “hell no,” and have to be pushed and prodded, kicking and screaming, to a possible yes.

Without consciously realizing it, my instinct has always been to start with “yes” and work from there.

“Hey, want to try a Zumba class tonight?” Sure! I have no coordination and suck big time at following choreography and will probably feel like an idiot, but let’s give it a whirl.

“Want to join us in Costa Rica for New Year’s?” Monkeys? Beaches? Sign me {and my 3-year- and 9-month-old} up!

“Can you come see this avant garde theater production I directed?” Why not?! 90% of it might go over my head, but bring on the weirdness.

After I realized I was a “Yes First” person, it occurred to me that I’m naturally drawn to other “Yes First” people. My mom is one. I married one. Many of my closest friends are too. We’re open to the opportunities the world presents to us, and to spontaneity (er, whatever spontaneity is still feasible once tiny humans enter the picture).

I don’t know whether being Yes First is based on nature, nurture, or some combination, but I’m trying to nudge my kids in that direction. It might mean that they’re pushed outside of their comfort zones, but I’m convinced that it will make them stronger, less rigid, and more willing to take risks. Sometimes we dive into the unknown together, and sometimes I’m leading by example in the choices I make and the experiences I embrace.

Now let me be clear on this point: I’m *not* advocating a Yes First approach to joyless drudgery. We can “yes” our way right into a nervous breakdown by volunteering for every task under the sun at work, church, or our kid’s school/team/club. In those cases, “no” can be empowering and oh so necessary. I’m talking about chances to do something new or unexpected.

I know that Yes First doesn’t work for everyone. Anxiety and other challenges can make it hard to find joy in situations that are uncomfortable and unpredictable. And I’ll check my privilege and acknowledge that not everyone can say “yes” to travel and other experiences that come with a hefty price tag.

But it’s *really* easy to miss out on life if our default reaction is to mentally reject opportunities now, and come up with an excuse later. As my kids grow up, I want their lives to be enriched by saying Yes (except to, ya know, drugs and stuff). I don’t want them to dismiss the chance to experience something because it’s different, unplanned, or risky.

Maybe they’ll end up feeling a little silly in a fitness class… or suffering through some really terrible theater productions… or kicking themselves as they wait in line at Passport Control with two grumpy children of their own… but I promise, it will be so worth it.


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