When "No" is Good for Your Family
- Monday, April 10, 2006
“Mommy, telephone,” the little voice yelled through the bathroom door. Realizing that no place is sacred when there are young children in a home, I raised my voice also in response. “Find out who it is and take a message.”
“It’s Mrs. Jones,” my seven-year old chimed back after a thirty second delay, “She’s coming Wednesday and needs to talk to you about it.”
Evaluation day, I thought to myself. She’s one of the ladies scheduled to come to my house. A decade ago we had been a part of the same homeschool support group, but had not seen each other in years.
“Tell her I’ll be right there!” I quickly finished dressing and answered the call. “So, do you need directions to my house?” I inquired.
“Not exactly,” she replied, “but I do need a favor.
I suddenly felt on guard.
“My daughter needs to be at work at the same time that her evaluation is scheduled and I was wondering if we could trade times with one of your children.”
Anxiety immediately crept in. With these appointments being only two days away, everything was already planned. This particular, much in demand evaluator, was scheduled to come to my home to evaluate my children, as required by our state law. In exchange, I had agreed to allow him to invite other homeschoolers to fill a time slot of seven, one-hour evaluations per day. Having five children who needed evaluating, this worked perfectly for me. The two outsiders would come at the end of the day, just when my children’s ability to sit still had diminished.
I quickly surmised that this old acquaintance was assuming that I would accommodate her need. My stress level was rising as I found myself caught between two choices. Do I say yes and make life easier for this woman, but in so doing, inconvenience my own family? Or do I say no and risk offending her?
I hesitated in a response, indirectly prompting Mrs. Jones to further explain her situation, thus giving me more time to ponder what I should do. (“…He that refraineth his lips is wise.” Prov. 10:19)
“Actually, I had the days mixed up,” she continued. The schedules had been mailed to her months in advance. “I guess I should have checked it before.” By keeping silent and not giving her an immediate answer, she was beginning to feel awkward and continued rationalizing why she needed to change her time. I was also quickly coming to the conclusion that it was not a matter of life and death, but rather one of poor planning on her part. She was really hoping that I would make her life easier with just this one phone call.
If I simply said yes, then she would not need to have her daughter change her work hours nor call someone else to exchange days or times. However, for the sake of her comfort, I would be inconveniencing my family and myself, upsetting our time schedules, rearranging our plans, causing my own children to have to be quiet and sit still longer than necessary, and interfere with our family lunch plans. The added time restraints would also increase the stress and pressure of an already demanding day, a factor I was attempting to minimize by offering my home as an “evaluation station.”
The Lord was indeed gracious to give me these insights with such a small amount of time to think. His compassion was further extended in granting me the grace to explain why I could not comply, and then being able to offer her alternatives.
As I hung up the phone, instead of feeling guilty for not helping her out, I experienced a tremendous amount of peace. At the risk of offending, I had put my family first. For some, this request may have been a small matter. But for me, it would have been a major concern.
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