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Faith in Vermont: Saying No to Lucky

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Posted on April 7, 2015 | Blog Category:
By Faith Gong



It's important to learn how to say "No."

I know, I know, you think, rolling your eyes. C'mon, tell me something new.

Here's my best shot at something new: I'd wager that not many people have been taught to say "No" by Lucky the Leprechaun.

Before we get to Lucky, though, let's review the basics about saying "No:"

1.    Saying "No" is hard.

2.   Saying "No" is especially hard, it seems, for women. Without opening a whole can of gender worms (which would be interesting, because worms are hermaphrodites), let me just say that, in my experience, many more women than men seem to grow up, either through nature or nurture, with the idea that they should be nice, people-pleasing "good girls." Saying "No" is particularly difficult for these women -- myself among them -- because it might involve "disappointing someone" or "being rude." It also carries with it the possibility that you cannot do everything, which means that you are not perfect.

3.   Saying "No" is especially, especially hard when it comes to your own children. I didn't use to believe this; I used to think that parents who had trouble saying "No" were weak-willed pushovers or subscribed to some sort of anti-conflict child-rearing philosophy. I believed this when I had one child. Now, I am broken. There is so much screaming in our house on a good day that it's going to take years for me to figure out whether the constant ringing in my ears is child-induced or tinnitus. I will do almost anything to prevent additional screaming. Anything. I am exhausted. And saying "No" usually results in screaming, often in public places.

4.   Failure to say "No" means that you will attempt to take on everything you are asked. You will feel like you are running on a non-stop treadmill with a stack of weights labeled “To Do” and “Guilt” piled high atop your head and shoulders. And all the while, your spoiled children will point at you and jeer.

5.    It's important to learn how to say "No."

Lucky the Leprechaun was a thing in our town this St. Patrick's Day. Maybe he was a thing in every town; I don't know. What I do know is that, if I ever figure out which family first told their kids about Lucky (let's call them "Family Zero"), and then allowed their kids to go to school and blab about Lucky to my kids, shamrocks will fly.

On the afternoon of St. Patrick’s Day, my first-grader bounced off of the school bus and said, “Mommy, do you know about Lucky the Leprechaun?”

Up until that moment, I’d considered St. Patrick’s Day 2015 a raging success. We’d hung up our one shamrock decoration in advance, and I’d even checked out a children’s book about the real Saint Patrick from the library. That morning, everyone had dressed in green, and we’d eaten green eggs for breakfast. Corned beef and cabbage were under way for dinner.

“No,” I said. “Who’s Lucky the Leprechaun?”

“Lucky the Leprechaun visits your house at night and brings luck and candy. And gold.”

I could see where this was headed. The gift and candy industries have already taken over Christmas, Easter, and Valentine’s Day; now they were going after St. Patrick’s Day as well. What's next: Washington the Eagle, who flies around bringing sweets and presents to all children on Independence Day?

Listen: I love making my children happy. I also appreciate the unconditional belief in the supernatural that's possible during a precious, brief moment in childhood. But this situation required a “No.” As it is, I do Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day, and four birthdays. The Tooth Fairy will make eighty visits to our house – a house that feels like a boat slowly sinking under the combined weight of the toys, clothes, books, and gear constantly being piled on board, while I try in vain to bail it out.

Also, it was 3:30 in the afternoon, and there was no way I could pull together this Lucky thing by bedtime.

So I said: “Huh, well, I’ve never heard about Lucky the Leprechaun in my life. So I guess he doesn’t come to our house.”

The next day, when a friend posted on Facebook about a similar dismissal of Lucky to her own daughter -- who’d responded, “That’s not fair!” -- I thought of something I wish I’d added.

I wish I’d said: “Luck is like that; it comes to some and not to others, with no regard for talent, hard work, or worthiness. Luck, by definition, isn’t fair. What do you expect from a leprechaun?”

But instead I said, by way of distraction, “You can pick a treat from your treat bag for snack, if you want.” (The “treat bags” are filled with a ridiculous amount of candy, accumulated from Halloween through Valentine’s Day.)

My daughter looked doubtful for a moment, but she didn’t scream. She just shrugged and said, “Maybe Lucky only comes to grown-ups.”

“Maybe,” I said.

And that was that, until I went to bed later that night and found on my night table a green construction paper shamrock that my daughter had cut out and written on in marker: “Dear Faith, Happy St. Patrik’s Day! Love, Luky.” Sitting atop it were a nickel and penny from her savings.

So, take it from me: Saying “No” pays off – literally. I said “No” to my child, and I am now six cents richer.

 

Faith Gong has worked as an elementary school teacher, a freelance photographer, and a nonprofit manager. Since moving to Addison County in 2011, her work has involved caring for a house in the woods, four young daughters, one anxiety-prone labradoodle — and writing for her blog, The Pickle Patch.

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