David R. Henderson  

Just Say Yes

Yes Mom... End the IMF...

Bryan's "Yes Mom" post reminded me of a decision I made early in my daughter's life that was one of the best decisions I ever made. I had heard so many parents with teenagers and young adult children express their regret about how little time they had spent with their kids when their kids wanted to be with them. Also, when I first had heard Harry Chapin's "Cat's in the Cradle" in my 20s, it had really hit home. I knew I couldn't commit always to make my daughter my priority. But I committed to my wife that when my daughter asked me to play with her, I would say yes at least 90% of the time. I didn't keep careful track but I think I batted over 0.900.

I remember one time when my daughter was about 10 and I had been coaching her on a basketball team for a couple of years. It was a Sunday afternoon and I had a pile of grading in front of me that was due to be returned in class Monday morning. Karen, my daughter, asked me if I would play basketball with her. "No, honey," I replied, "I need to do this grading." "Are your students more important to you than me?" she asked. "No," I replied, "you're more important than my students. But on the margin, they're more important than you. It's more important that I spend this next 2 hours grading than that I play basketball with you." I think she got it.

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CATEGORIES: Family Economics

COMMENTS (5 to date)
Andy Hallman writes:

And did your 10-year-old understand what "on the margin" meant? :-)

Tracy W writes:

There's a delightful book, The Perfect Hostess, published in 1931, with all sorts of useful advice for the housewife with several servants in upper-class London.
One of which was advice for raising children:
"Say yes if you possibly can, but if you say no, mean it."

(It also included advice for the 18th year old daughter's birthday party, of, if possible, persuading a friendly policeman to, before he goes on shift, stop by, knock on the door, and make enquiries.)

Joe Cushing writes:


This comment system needs thumbs or likes or stars or something. I was thinking the same thing. I'm guessing she is an unusual child who does know what that means though.

David R. Henderson writes:

@Andy Hallman and Joe Cushing,
Once I explained about the two hours, I think she understood. Memory is imperfect though.

Meera writes:

If a kid could understand what "at the margin" meant at the age of ten, she should have been reading AER by the time she was in high school

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