Let there be Yes: A Poem and Giveaway by Sarah Dunning Park

Today’s guest post is from Sarah Dunning Park. I had the privilege of receiving a review copy of her book a while back, and after I read it, I wrote: “Sarah Dunning Park has given parents of young children a great gift in this book. She has taken the quotidian life of laundry and minivans and squabbling children and exhausted moms and dads and made it beautiful.” I’m sure you’ll feel the same way after reading her words today. (And might I suggest this slender book as a perfect Mother’s Day Gift for any number of moms you know?)

As a child, I loved nothing better than doing arts and crafts. I’d connect the dots and color. I’d write short stories and draw pictures to accompany them. I’d make inventions out of scraps of cloth, clothespins, and cardboard. Later on, as a college student, I majored in Art and Art History, and as an adult, I’ve worked in the fields of stained glass restoration and illustration.

Now I have three elementary-aged children, and it would stand to reason that I’d be a crafts-oriented mom. But no — the idea of getting out paints and brushes and smocks? The mess and the hassle! It’s all I can do to make dinner and attempt to vanquish our ever-present pile of laundry.

However, I’ve seen in both myself and my kids that the act of creating fills a need. Without it, we all get crabby. Sometimes cooking a new dish fills this need for me; at other times, only carving out time and space for writing will do.

I still don’t bring out the kids’ paints or modeling clay all that regularly. It’s important to honor your own tolerance levels. But I’ve tried to make less-messy raw materials available to my kids at all times: paper, pencils, tape, scissors, cardboard, yarn, scraps of cloth.

Having kids has reminded me that we all need space for the act of processing and making, and that no one thrives by being constantly hemmed in by rules and constraints. I’ve always wanted my ducks in a row — but it’s easy to get to the end of a day and find that it was entirely taken up with checking off boxes and doing the responsible thing.

A day like that makes my children mutinous. And if I’m honest, it does the same to me.

I write about this tension — feeling overwhelmed and wanting to say no to my kids, but finding the value in acquiescing — in my poem, “Let there be Yes.” It’s one of the poems from my new book of poetry, What It Is Is Beautiful: Honest Poems for Mothers of Small Children (http://www.amazon.com/What-It-Is-Beautiful/dp/1933339594/). Please comment at the end for a chance to win a free copy!

Let there be Yes

I say no to them all the time:
No, you may not eat candy bars for breakfast,
color pictures on the carpet,
wear your tutu to the store again.
And stop blowing bubbles in your milk,
or abandoning your warm bed
after I’ve tucked you in.

Perhaps it’s the wisdom of age,
or that this is not their full-time gig,
but their grandmothers have another way:
Yes, let’s make projects with plenty of glitter and paint,
matching costumes for you and your bear,
hot chocolate for watching movies
on a Saturday morning in June.

I decide to try it myself,
tentatively — Sure, I suppose we can
bring out the modeling clay today.
So we spread an old vinyl cloth on the table,
and dump the box that holds baggies of red and black,
blue, green, and yellow. From my post in the kitchen,
I watch them settle in to their work.

It’s quiet; no one complains
of boredom or hunger
or cunningly-orchestrated breaches of room security
carried out by little sisters. The only requests
are for assistance rolling up an errant sleeve
or for a toothpick to carve out fine details
and at last, the artist’s signature.

As she bends over her masterpiece
to scratch the letters of her name,
I understand what it is my mother must know
when she says yes to these young creators:
we are wired to make, and we can make
trouble, or we can make goodness and art
and meaning and sustenance and play.

© Sarah Dunning Park, 2012, from What It Is Is Beautiful (http://www.amazon.com/dp/1933339594/). All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Do you see in yourself or your kids the need for a creative outlet? How have you balanced trying to meet these needs while still staying sane in your home? Leave a comment on this post or these questions, and you’ll be entered in a drawing to receive a free copy of Sarah’s new book. 


Sarah Dunning Park is the author of What It Is Is Beautiful: Honest Poems for Mothers of Small Children (http://www.amazon.com/dp/1933339594/). She lives in rural Virginia with her husband and three daughters. Visit her at sarahdunningpark.com.

About Amy Julia Becker

Amy Julia Becker writes and speaks about family, faith, disability, and culture. A graduate of Princeton University and Princeton Theological Seminary, she is the author of Penelope Ayers: A Memoir, A Good and Perfect Gift (Bethany House), and Why I Am Both Spiritual and Religious (Patheos Press).


  1. Mike Helbert says:

    This is not only true for moms. I became a grandfather 3 years ago. I see a potential in my grandson, and a freedom to let him explore that, that I never had for my children. Maybe part of that is because I get to send him home to his parents when I’m done spoiling him! ;>) Mostly, tho, is that I can better see that saying ‘no’ too often can destroy the beautiful, imaginative potential of these young humans. Hey, if no one’s gonna get hurt, why not?

  2. I LOVE this:

    “we are wired to make, and we can make
    trouble, or we can make goodness and art
    and meaning and sustenance and play”

    I have seen this play out in schools and museums, and homes, and everywhere

  3. Libby Hunt says:

    The best I can do is remember that God is, among other things, creative, and that is mirrored in us. My son isn’t such a crafter/artist as a pretender. Which I can play along with for about 2 minutes before I get bored. Thanks for the chance!

  4. Jeannie P says:

    A couple of weeks ago my son’s Educational Assistant sent home an art project Jonathan had done. The EA wrote in my son’s agenda, tongue firmly in cheek, “Jonathan’s enthusiasm for the fine arts remains tempered at best.” And it’s true — he HATES crafts. But I put his picture on the wall anyway, with its pastel blue sky and sort-of-round cutout sun, because I thought it was so cute. I thought he might not even notice but he was thrilled and kept pointing to it and saying his teacher’s name. Maybe his enthusiasm wasn’t so tempered after all. :-)

  5. My eyes are a bit watery after reading that poem, Sarah. I think it’s allergies.
    When my kids were young there were lots of questions that began, “Can we …?” I am so glad for those times I said yes, and I hope I said it often enough.

  6. Beautiful poem! I can’t wait to read the book!

  7. I have so much trouble saying an enthusiastic, “yes!” even though I want to. Thank you for this poem. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  8. We need to be creative, although I tend to appreciate it more outside. “Why yes you may make something in the mud kitchen. How about I hose you down before you come in?” We did make an Atelier (children’s studio) in our home so that we had a designated place to create…and so I don’t have to clear off the dining room table so that we can eat every night!

  9. Writing, poetry, cooking, dance, art, origami … yes, they fill a need.

    So glad to see what you shared here. We also have known mutiny.

  10. I would love to win this! Poems like these really hit home!

  11. Elizabeth says:

    I appreciate the title- Let there be Yes– even when I have to say no, I try to see if there is also a small part of my girls’ requests I can say Yes to. We like to bring out the play doh on the kitchen floor. We put it on place mats– but of course it ends up all over the place– but it is easy just to sweep up the teeny pieces when they are done– and they can help with the sweeping or holding the dust pan.

  12. Gorgeous and wise. I too dislike the mess and hassle of children’s crafting, or more common in our house, when kids create tableaux of various disparate objects and toys for their dolls or some purpose known only to their imaginations. All those objects must eventually be put back in their places, of course, and the kids have lost interest by then. Nevertheless, I have learned to quiet my “no” in the face of such contentment.

  13. H. Hartman says:

    Thank you–such a good reminder. A rare piece of parenting advice from my precious Mama was “try to say yes as often as you can.” Thank you for that reminder as well…blessings to you.