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Say Yes Whenever Possible

by Art Teacher Erica Spangler

This fall, I experienced a new first as a parent of three children. My oldest, Ellie, went to college for the first time! Our summer began when Ellie graduated from high school. The next day she turned 18 - a day that had loomed in my mind since my spikey-haired, blue eyed baby girl turned one month old. On that day long ago, I already knew the time was going to fly by and now she was celebrating her 18th birthday and ready to head to college. 

On Rossman’s first day of the school year, my baby got on a plane and flew up for a pre-orientation leadership program at Macalester College in St. Paul. A few days later, my husband and I packed up the minivan with her belongings and drove up to meet her.

As we drove the 8 and a half hours to Minnesota, several questions raced through my head. Had I taught her everything she needed to know? Was she actually prepared to be on her own? What did I forget to teach her? Those questions can fill a parent with worry. A good friend and teacher at Rossman reminded me that I did everything I could for her. I was a good mom, and some experiences have to be learned on their own.

You may be far from sending your children to college, but it will be here before you know it. One of the best pieces of advice I received as a parent came from my dad when Ellie was a toddler. One day he told me, “Say yes whenever possible.” This was a comment that surprised me from my dad. I was not an overindulged child. So, I asked him what he meant by that. I honestly didn’t think my parents said yes to me whenever possible. When he explained, I realized the beautiful part of parenting he was talking about. That yes was not to stuff. It wasn’t to TV time. It wasn’t to candy in the grocery store aisle. The yes he spoke about was the gift of time. My father elaborated, “Say yes when they ask you to play, to read a book, to snuggle, to go for a walk, to bake, do an art project or spend any kind of time with you.” And the lightbulb went on! That’s what my parents DID! I remember going to the park every Monday night before we went to our church’s children’s choir directed by my dad. We didn’t all like McDonalds, so dad would stop at McDonalds and Taco Bell so we could have what we liked. We had a picnic in the park. I remember vividly my dad reading to me every night. In fact he was the reason I loved the book James and the Giant Peach and Where the Sidewalk Ends. I remember baking chocolate chip cookies every weekend with my mom to pack in our lunches for the week. That was the gift of time they gave me as their daughter.

So, I took my dad’s wisdom to heart and have worked hard to say yes to my kids whenever possible. Ellie’s junior year was spent at home, learning on-line alone. She asked if the two of us could go for coffee on Sundays after church. My answer? Yes! So we began a weekly ritual of church followed by a trip to Clover and the Bee for amazing lattes, a seat on their outdoor patio no matter how cold, and a half hour that was just us. We discussed everything from AP classes, to college dreams to relationships with friends. This one yes, became a 2-year rhythm we were committed to not miss. 

Ellie is now at school. Did I tell her everything she needs to know? Probably not. Will she make mistakes? Absolutely. But I can rest assured that she got plenty of yeses from me - the gift of time and presence. We have fond memories of puddle-jumping, baking and delivering warm cookies to the teachers at my school in NY, feeding horses on long walks, and many nights of games and laughter. 

I’m not getting my Sunday coffee anymore. But my son Matthew who is a sophomore in high school has a standing Saturday date with me - biking followed by a donut. It’s my yes to him - my gift of time. Will we talk about everything he needs to know before he goes to college? Probably not. But, he’ll know he was loved, important, and his mom made time for him. 

I wish that for you and your children too. Say yes whenever possible!

Rossman School, nestled on a 20-acre campus in St. Louis, is a private preparatory school for students in Junior Kindergarten (four years old) through Grade 6. The school’s mission is to provide a strong, well-balanced education in a nurturing school community committed to excellence. Dedicated to developing personal, nurturing relationships with each child, Rossman’s experienced educators provide a solid foundation in academics, athletics and arts while emphasizing strong character development and leadership skills.‚Äč To learn more or schedule a tour, visit our inquiry page.