The Value In 'Maybe': A Lesson In (Occasional) Half-Ass Parenting
You're a parent. I'm a parent. We all had parents, and trust me, they were so in on it. I know mine were. I'm they approached it in the same way I did, you know, before I had kids.
"When I have kids of my own, I am never going to give 'maybe' as an answer. I am always going to be honest and forthright with my kids. The world will be one giant 'maybe' to them one day and I refuse to set a stage for disappointment and passing the buck."
Yeah, right. I also said I wasn't ever going to let my kids use pacifiers, but at three o'clock in the morning I often found myself on the floor of the room rooting for one of the seven pacifiers we had splayed around.
It wasn't long after my kids started talking, and thus asking endless questions, that I started to see the value in the simple word "maybe". What a wonderful word it has turned out to be! With two little syllables I can give a gentle letdown that also conveys potential and hope that I might eventually. A sort of "Try me later. Right now, I just can't deal with you, but maybe after I've had a few days to digest this, you can beat me down." At the same time, "maybe" can also be a way out for me later where I can say "You know honey, I did say maybe. I wasn't sure then, but now I'm certain we can't do this."
When do I most often use the "maybe" response? Usually to completely off-the-wall requests like asking for a dirt bike, a lizard or painting the kitchen walls bubble gum pink. Sometimes it's in response to being asked to cut their hair in mohawks or for second ear piercings because "so and so's" mom is "so cool and let her do it". I'm usually in the driver's seat and the four of them are in the back clamoring for my attention as I try to concentrate on some sort of news radio.
I've felt guilty for saying "maybe" in the past. I hated it when my mother used it on me, but as ambivalent as it is, it's also iron-clad. A maybe was a chance to wear her down, which was good for me, or have her dig in her heels later, which was good for her. See? Win-win!
My only cautionary advice is to be clear of the rules when you use "maybe". If you've a strong-willed or smart child, make sure they're in on the terms. One of mine is of the bright variety and he knows that I sometimes use "maybe" in a sleep-deprived, pre-coffee daze. He'll know I'm not always paying attention, take the maybe as a yes and have a can of cold chili for breakfast.
(Original post to Canada Moms Blog. Chantal also blogs at Bread Crumbs In The Butter where she swears she is not really this hapless a parent, she's actually quite effective, but still enjoys the occasional parenting cop-out now and again.)