I was driving home last week after picking up my son from summer camp, and he asked me if he could go swimming at a friend’s house. I responded, “No.”
“Because I said so.”
“Mom, because is not an answer.”
I couldn’t swing my head around because I needed to keep my eyes on the road, but if you’re a momma, then you knowwhat I was thinking. (There’s a meme that would fit perfectly here—the one with Nene Leakes saying, “I said what I said!”) On the quiet ride home, I began to think about my response. It was a response I had heard plenty of times growing up. But at that moment, I realized my son was not being disrespectful; he was just asking for an explanation for his denied request.
How many times had I been denied something and just accepted it without an explanation? How often have we continued to do something a certain way because that’s what we were told? We were raised to accept the answer or direction without question. In fact, it wasn’t until my late thirties that I challenged a “No.”
I’d applied for a job that had multiple rounds of interviews. When I read the job description, I knew I was the one for the job. Each qualification matched every line on my resume. I could answer questions in the interview without hesitation, and I even offered some insight. A few days later, I received an email that read, “We’re going in another direction,” which is the HR version of “Because we said so.”
This wasn’t the first time I hadn’t been selected for a job, but it was the first time I wouldn’t accept a “no” without an explanation. What direction were they going in? Who did they pick instead of me? I wanted to know. I needed to know. I waited a day to respond, so I had time to gather my thoughts and not let my emotions take over. Then, I wrote back. My email opened with a thank you and concluded with, “Would you mind sharing which direction you decided to take?”
After I hit send, I thought about pressing unsend, but I needed to know the answer. Not because of my ego, but because I didn’t want to create a narrative in my head that would make me believe that I wasn’t good enough. Much to my surprise, I received an email from the hiring manager. She gave me great feedback and noted that she would have hired me if the position had not been filled internally. We discussed future opportunities and agreed to stay in contact.
I was disappointed I didn’t get the job, but at least I knew why. That experience changed how I would approach similar circumstances as a Black woman—both professionally and personally—in the future. It made me more assertive and confident. So, when I answered my son’s question with “Because I said so,” I realize that, in that scenario, he was measking for the reason I wasn’t selected for the job. And he deserved to know the reason behind my decision because there was, in fact, a valid one.
At home, I called my son into my room and explained that he could not swim at his friend’s house because he did not know how to swim, and I did not feel comfortable with him being there without me. I also told him he would start swim lessons in the next few weeks. I doubt the exchange really mattered to him; he probably had already forgotten about it—as most kids do. But it mattered to me because I want him to be able to challenge his “no’s” if and when he feels like he deserves an answer.
Of course, there are situations where “No” is a complete sentence and an explanation is unnecessary. Still, as a mom, I want to create a space where we can have healthy dialogues about anything and everything.
Tell me, as a parent, do you explain your decisions to your children?Leave a Comment