I know it’s a 3-year-old’s nature to be curious about everything and ask a lot of questions. And I know it’s my responsibility as his dad to answer those questions. Lately, I’ve noticed that the sheer number of times I have to answer ‘no’ to his questions over the weekend is astonishing. I’m like a pitcher hurling a steady stream of “no” fastballs at his head all day…but he stays up in the batter’s box, waiting for more. He’s relentless.
After a particularly grueling Q&A first thing in the morning on Saturday, I decided to keep track to see if I was simply being a dream-crushing jerk to my son, or the responsible dad I thought I was being. This is how it went.
(My 3-year-old’s questions are in regular font. My answers, largely starting with ‘no’ are in bold. Also, my 5-year-old was with me all day too, as my wife was working, but I didn’t have the energy to track my “no’s” to her as well.)
7:05am – Saturday Morning
Is today Tuesday?
No, pal. It’s Saturday.
Do we have school today?
No, it’s the weekend. No school!
Yeah. Are we staying home all day?
No. Maybe this afternoon. You have swim lessons this morning.
Yeah! Swimming is sooo fun. Can we swim outside?
No. It’s too cold, pal. Your lessons are inside.
Are you taking lessons?
No, I know how to swim, you know that.
Can I wear shorts today?
No, it’s too cold. You’ll have to wear pants. But you can pick whichever ones you want.
Can I wear my Hulk costume pants?
No, maybe later… Now we’ll just put on pants for breakfast and then to wear for swim lessons.
Is today the birthday party?
Nope. That’s tomorrow, pal. But today will be fun too. Let’s get you dressed.
But I can’t wear shorts.
No, no shorts. When it’s warm out you can wear shorts in the spring.
Is it going to be spring tomorrow?
No, man. Not tomorrow. Still winter. But it’ll be spring soon.
Okay. Does twenty come after ten?
No, you know what comes after ten.
Yes! Now get up.
Now let’s take a moment here to tally this up. I just said ‘no’ eleven times before the little guy even got out of bed. Can you imagine if someone shot down every thought and idea you had before you left your bed in the morning? I feel like a soul sucking a-hole… And my onslaught of “no’s” had just begun.
TOTAL “NO” TALLY: 11
7:30am – Breakfast
Can I have donuts?
No. Not for breakfast. After swimming maybe we’ll get one on the way home.
Can I have more blueberries?
No, we just finished them. How about strawberries?
Awww. I don’t want strawberries. How about watermelon?
No, we don’t have watermelon. Strawberries?
Um, do we have cantaloupe?
No, we don’t. We have strawberries, raspberries and apples and bananas.
No, no mangos. How about strawberries. We have a lot.
No, we’re out of blackberries. What do you think about strawberries, bud?
You really want broccoli with cereal? Strawberries would be better.
A LITTLE LATER…
Can I have a donut now?
No, on the way home from swimming if you’re a good listener, OK?
And just like that we’ve racked up eight more “no’s”. And we’re not arguing or anything and other than me having to say ‘no’ he’s not really getting upset or having a tantrum…which is surprising because if someone told me ‘no’ this much before 8am I’d be chucking my strawberries all over the kitchen with impunity.
TOTAL “NO” TALLY: 19
9:15am – after watching The Jungle Book (live, amazing version directed by Favreau) for the 459th time.
Can we watch Jungle Book again?
No, it’s time to get dressed for swim lessons.
Are you wearing your bathing suit, too?
No, I’m just wearing regular clothes.
Can I bring my gorilla toy in the pool?
No, not during lessons. But you can bring him to the pool.
Can gorillas swim?
I like Bagheera. Is he a jaguar?
No. We talked about this… You remember what kind of cat he is.
Uh… A panther! Can we have a panther?
Can we have a jaguar?
No. I don’t think Pete (our labrador) would like a jaguar in the house.
Uh… P would like wolves. Can we have wolves?
No, wolves probably don’t want to live inside.
Can we have Baloo?
No, man. We can’t have Baloo. He’s huge. He probably wouldn’t fit in the house.
But we have honey we can give him. I’ll let him sleep in my bed. I’m going to ask mom.
Ok. If she’s fine with having Baloo live with us then I’m fine with it too.
See what I did there? After a string of 9 “no’s” I punted this next one to mom… Let her rack up a few “no’s” on her own ledger. Mine’s getting full.
TOTAL “NO” TALLY: 28
9:55am – At Swim Lessons
Can you come in the water?
No, bud. It’s your lesson.
10:30 – After Swim Lessons
Can I keep swimming?
No, buddy. It’s someone else’s turn for a lesson now.
Can I just go outside and swim?
No, it’s too cold, remember?
Can I keep these goggles?
Nope. Those are the pool’s goggles. You didn’t want to wear yours.
I don’t know. You just said you didn’t want to wear them. It was your call.
Can we get a donut now?
11:00am – Inside Dunkin’ Donuts
Can I have two donuts?
No, you can have one. This is a treat for doing so well at swimming.
Ok. Then can I have FIVE donuts?
No, I just said you can’t have two. Why would I say you could have five?
Can I have three?
No, just one.
Can I have ice cream?
No, buddy. It’s eleven in the morning. We’re just having a donut.
This one’s my fault. We went into one of those Dunkin’ Donuts / Baskin Robbins dual stores. You have to pass the ice cream to get to the donuts. I get why they team up, but they should really cover the ice cream part until like noon or so… That would be a huge help to us parents. Thanks, DD. Back to me saying ‘no’ to everything the boy asks on the car ride home and killing his desires..
Is Monster Trucks tonight?
No, that’s next weekend, buddy. I’m so excited. It’s going to be awesome. We’re gonna see Gravedigger!
I’m gonna drive Gravedigger. Can I?
No, man. They don’t let you drive the trucks, we get to watch them fly into the sky and race and flip and stuff. It’s really cool.
Can I drive your car?
No. When you’re older you can.
When I’m six?
No. Sixteen. Or seventeen. I actually don’t know how old kids are in Texas when they get their license.
Does twenty come after seventeen?
No. You know what comes after seventeen.
Yes! Then what?
Nope. C’mon, you know how to count to like a hundred.
Nineteen. Then twenty… Can we go to Dunkin’ Donuts.
No. We just went, dude.
I want to go back and get another donut. The blue frosted one.
Ok. Is this afternoon gonna be next time?
What? No. We’re home.
By this point I’m feeling kinda bad. It’s lunch and the boy has been told we can’t have a bear or jaguar live with us. He can’t swim more. He can only have one donut. The birthday he’s going to isn’t until tomorrow and the Monster Truck show we’ve been talking about isn’t until next week. I don’t know how he’s not drinking milk in a glass case of emotion…but he’s taking it all in stride.
TOTAL “NO” TALLY: 44
12:15pm – Lunch at Home
You forgot to get me a drink. I want chocolate milk. Please. I finished all my carrots.
That’s good. But no, bud. You just had a donut. How about water?
No. Water would be good. Or regular milk.
I want regular milk and water.
And if I finish that can I have chocolate milk?
We now have a blissful two-hour break from dream-shattering and “no’s” as we both lie down for a nap together… Almost.
Can I get up now?
No. It’s quiet time. You woke up early so let’s take a nap.
Then we can get up?
Will it be dark out when we get up?
Are you going to be quiet too?
Can I keep talking.
OK, now we actually do take a nap.
TOTAL “NO” TALLY: 50
After our nap I thought I paved the way for a “no” free afternoon, by agreeing to take the kids to the park to play with their friends. Only two “no’s” occurred on the way. One when I couldn’t play the same song from the radio back-to-back and the other when my son asked if Monster Trucks was tonight. Again.
TOTAL “NO” TALLY: 52
I try my best to let the kids just play at the park. I want them to learn what they can and can’t do. I want them to struggle climbing things. I want them to fall and fail and figure stuff out with other kids, within reason, themselves. I never sprint over when they take a soft tumble. I let them get up, brush themselves off and figure out that they’re okay on their own. Like Rocky Balboa said, “It ain’t how hard you hit that matters, it’s how hard you get hit and keep moving forward.” I watch everything, but only intervene if absolutely necessary. Of course, because a large percentage of parents have stopped watching altogether to play Candy Crush, I end up pushing 10 kids on the zipline for thirty minutes, but whatever.
That being said, I’ll chalk the next 12 “no’s” that I said to my son up to the responsibility of keeping him alive, all of which involved a version of “Can I jump off this?” questions that I had to say “no” to, including one from a height that leads me to believe my son thinks he can fly… Then came a few fun, awkward “no’s”.
TOTAL “NO” TALLY: 64
Dad, can TJ come over for dinner?
Uh, who’s TJ? You don’t have any friends named TJ.
Right here (points kid next to him who he literally met six seconds ago).
No, TJ can’t come over. Sorry, buddy. I’m sure his parents have plans.
TJ: No, they don’t.
Well, we have plans, so maybe another time.
I won’t count saying “no” to a stranger’s kid, but he’s three years old. How are the parents of a three year old so far away that they aren’t involved in this discussion. Can’t they just say no? Let me be the bad guy. Fine.
Can anyone come over for dinner?
No, just us tonight buddy. I’m going to take you and Reese out to dinner since Mom’s working.
Can we have ice cream after?
No. You already had a donut today. No more treats. What do you want for dinner?
No. Let’s have real food.
TJ: I like cereal.
That’s great, TJ. Where’s your mom or dad?
I look over and a mom waves from a bench 30 yards away. Don’t worry, don’t get up. I’ll handle two meltdowns. Wouldn’t want you to miss out on a Facebook update.
How about we get a hamburger? You wanted a hamburger last night but we had salads.
C’mon. I want a burger.
You’re stealing my “no’s” now?
Let’s figure it out in the car. C’mon, buddy.
TJ: I like cheeseburgers.
That’s excellent, TJ. Go tell your mom.
I want to stay.
I want to stay with TJ.
No, you don’t even know TJ. You just met him. Sorry, TJ.
I want to stay at the park!
Nope. We’ve been here two hours. I said we were leaving in five minutes three times, so we’re going. Just say, “thanks for taking me to the park, Daddy.”
And this is when I just scoop him up and carry him out. He struggles for a minute, but then chills, thankfully. This used to be my daughter’s role, so she just watches in amusement.
TOTAL “NO” TALLY: 71
6:20pm – Five Guys Burgers and Fries
I want chicken.
No, they only have burgers.
What about a hot dog?
No, they don’t have hot dogs.
I want a hot dog.
No. They just have burgers, pal. It’s called Five Guys Burgers and Fries.
Five Guys cashier: Actually, sir, we have hot dogs.
Seriously? Since when?
Cashier: As long as I’ve worked here.
Man… I’ve been here a hundred times and never knew that. Are the hot dogs good? That’s awesome. (To my son): Buddy, they have hot dogs. You can get a hot dog.
I want a hamburger with no cheese.
Of course you do.
Can I have soda?
Can I have milk?
No, they don’t have milk. They have all kinds of flavored water though.
I want cantaloupe water.
Uhhh… That’s like the only flavor they don’t have. So, no. They have cherry, grape, strawberry, peach…
I pour him peach
It’s not purple. I want purple.
No. You said peach.
Is peach purple?
No. Peach is light orange.
I want purple.
So you want grape?
No. Yeah, yeah. Is it soda?
No it’s water. It just comes out of the same thing.
Cuz I can’t have soda. Right?
No, you can’t. I meant that yes, you’re right, you can’t have soda.
Awww. Do they have dessert here?
Can I have dessert at home?
No. You can have fruit at home. Or maybe one small treat. We’ll see.
Does hamburger start with the letter ‘A’?
No, sound it out. You can do it.
Huh, huh… ‘H’!
Yes! Good job, pal.
I want an ‘H’ in my name. Can I put one in?
No, your name is spelled how it’s spelled. Your middle name has an ‘H’.
Ice cream does not have an H.
No, it doesn’t.
Now, I’ll spare you the rest of the “no’s” to wrap up the evening, as they all involved staying up longer, asking to not take a bath, asking to not brush teeth, asking to watch a movie, and on and on… Suffice to say that from leaving Five Guys to the last “no” of the night, which was me answering in the negative to the questions about whether I’m going to watch Jungle Book when he sleeps, I threw out ten more “no’s”… Giving me a grand total of 97. Call Guinness. Each one completely necessary and defensible. Except the one about Baloo. That bear kicks ass. He can live with us any time.
TOTAL “NO” TALLY: 97!!!!
If you’ve read this far and you’re a dad, you may enjoy this book about how to dominate your day: The Dadvantage.