When ‘No’ Is The Most Positive Answer

Sometimes saying “yes” to your own happiness means saying “no” to something else.

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Posted in , Aug 10, 2018

Camping in the rain

My family’s synagogue hosts a camping trip each summer. The trip is a well-oiled machine, as families who have been going for years mentor camping newbies (like me) on everything from pitching a tent to launching a kayak to toasting the perfect s’more. 

We excitedly signed up and laid in a combination of purchased (sleeping bags) and borrowed (almost everything else) supplies. I hadn’t been camping since my Girl Scout days. My husband Rob mostly associated “camping” with his Army service. Our 7-year-old son Ben is all about the outdoors. This felt like the perfect opportunity to make our first foray into family camping in a fun, supportive setting.

But as the date got closer, the forecast set off alarm bells. At least 50 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms for nearly a 12-hour period gave us major pause. Rob and I discussed it at length. I remembered that decades-ago Girl Scout trip where it poured, and I was miserable. He realized we didn’t have any tarps. And—most importantly—our son is going through a phase where he is significantly afraid of thunder. 

We knew that we could make it work. But we also knew that if Ben got scared by thunder on a camping trip, he would be highly unlikely to agree to try camping again anytime soon. After all, he is his mother’s son (see Exhibit A: that rainy Girl Scout trip was it for me!). 

We decided to pull out of the trip. We dropped off the food we had signed up to contribute to the communal meals, said we were sad to miss the fun and stored the sleeping bags in the basement. It was disappointing—but it felt like the right call for us.

A number of people—well-meaning, loving people—encouraged us to reconsider, telling us stories of the adventures they had not only survived but enjoyed while camping during wild weather. 

And we did reconsider, many times. But in the end, the most positive answer for our family in this case was “no.” There’s a time and a place to face fears and soldier on, of course. But it is also important to be flexible enough to step away from something that could be fun, should be fun, but would not be fun for a child whose eyes would have been fixed on the sky. 

The fact is, that camping trip was fun for those who went. There was no thunder, and only one rain shower. But Rob and I remained pleased with our decision to take others’ opinions into account, but make our ultimate decision based on what we felt was best for our little family. 

Were we right or wrong? It doesn’t even matter. What matters to us is that we made the decision together in a way that felt thoughtful and positive to us. Even if that meant finding the strength to say “no.” 

How do you handle difficult decisions? How do you find the strength to say “no”?

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