No Means No

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We are all guilty of it… come on parents, let’s just fess up… our kids know how to “wear us down.”  It could be the extra scoop of ice cream for dessert, the Pokemon cards they have to have once they spot them at the checkout at Target (‘it’s only $5, mom!’), one more day of not putting their clean clothes away, or an extra hour of screen time at the end of the long day. They have tactics – whining, the “cute face,” the never-ending “pleeeeeeeeesssssseee,” the list goes on… and I am first to admit, that after a long day, usually a physically and mentally exhausting day, I can let my parenting “no” become a “yes” just to stop the pestering, get some peace and make them “happy.”

But my mommy-heart has been troubled, something about this hasn’t been sitting right with me for the last few years as I raise my 10-year-old son and co-parent my 13-year-old twin step-sons.  Are we, their parents – specifically their moms, teaching them that if you push and pester hard enough, you can make someone’s “no” become a “yes”?  How will they ever know that “no means no” in a relationship if their whole life they have been programmed, by those who are supposed to teach them right from wrong, that if you push and manipulate, you can eventually get what you want.  Just keep pushing.

I am a survivor of molestation and sexual assault. I wasn’t kidnapped, or held against my will with a weapon, or beaten or networked in the slave trade (or any of the other frightening, real scenarios that girls, boys, women and men deal with on a daily basis). I was coerced, worn down, “puppy dog-eyed” into submitting to what my abuser wanted me to do.  And I let it happen, so I could just get it over with.  I would close my eyes, and know it would be over soon enough, and if I didn’t make a big deal I would go back home and no one would know any better.  I had low self-esteem and for a very long time I associated these encounters with my normal.  This was just who I was and what I was worth.  It wasn’t really until last year – at age 38 – that I began to come to terms with what was actually done to me starting at age thirteen and how it has cast a shadow over me for the last 25 years.

And I am one of the lucky ones – I had a good family, access to good education, worked my way up the corporate ladder in New York City and have a great career at one of Forbes Magazine’s Top 100 places to work. We were in the top 5 last year… in the world.  I found the love of my life at age 35 – the first person I told “I love you” in a romantic way – and while our road is bumpy, messy and sometimes flat out not what I thought it would be, I know I am blessed.

But that takes me back to my responsibility as a parent and my heart for my kids and boys and girls around the world. As I have worked my way through recovery, and considered my own enabling actions as a mom, I am feeling lead to share this motion (it is not a new one, but something I haven’t heard discussed, to my knowledge, as part of the #metoo movement) that abusers, predators, violators don’t develop their evil tendencies in a vacuum or out of nowhere.  Perhaps, growing up they learned from a very early age that they could turn a “no” into a “yes” at home and that carried over into their teenage/adult life. Perhaps that is why this problem has gone unchecked for centuries and is only now getting the public forum it deserves.  Perhaps, we as parents, need to assume responsibility for the habits we are teaching our kids that could then lead to making discrimination, harassment and abuse permissible. What if we drew a line in the sand from day one in our parenting that “no means no” – how different would the future generations be in relation to sexual misconduct and abuse?

I am a Christian and God found me at age 17 during a very sad time.  He pulled me out of the dark hole I was receding into and for the last 22 years, that faith and relationship – a real connection with a loving God and Father – has kept me moving forward.  My problems didn’t disappear when I choose to give my life to God and believe His promise for my life instead of what the world had taught me, but what I did have was a hope that defied my past and gave me a vision for my future.

So that faith, coupled with my own personal experience, has brought me to today – and moved me to write this down.  I have heard and applied the following bible verse in my life in a variety of ways, but it seems more than appropriate as an encouragement and call to action for Christian parents of boys today.

Matthew 5:37 “But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ be ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” 

I am far from the perfect parent, I fail often, but I do commit to take responsibility for what I teach my boys is normal and acceptable.  I pray that my boys grow into men who let their ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and their ‘no’ be ‘no’, and they respect that in any person that they encounter.

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About Kelly Lynch Lemmons

Kelly loves spending time with her family, going to the movies, traveling, eating exotic foods, reading magazine, cooking, laughing with friends and working in the fast-paced world of marketing. She was a member of C3 Church Manhattan for 10+ years before moving to Texas in 2012 to be closer to family to help her raise her young son. Today, Kelly and her husband Kelly (yes, they have the same name!) live in Texas with their three boys.