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Do I Have to?

If parents had a nickel for every time one of our children have said, “Do I have to?” we would be rich. Or at least, have put enough aside to begin retirement.

Parents say, “Eat your green beans.” “Brush your teeth.” “It’s time to go to bed.” “We’ll get up early tomorrow.” Can you hear a chorus of children responding, “Do I have to?” Those four words must be embedded at birth. We teach children to say please and thank you and may I and I’m sorry. Yet, every child, I’ve ever known, from my own to the hundreds that where my students to my Grands have said, “Do I have to?” With the same exact whiny inflection.

And we have identical answers. “Yes, you have to.” After we’ve worn out those words, we switch to nodding our heads and raising our eyebrows. And then comes the stare. The cold still stare that screams, “Yes and now!”

But it’s not just children who seemingly rebel about doing something. So many times we adults utter those same words. I have to go to the grocery store.   (Oh, for a nickel every time I’ve said this!) I have to do laundry. I have to pay bills. I have to get my car serviced. I have to pick up the Grands after their dance classes. I have to. I have to. I have to.

I’m guilty. When I’ve said what I plan to do, I’ve used the word have. But now I’m trying out something different. I read a Guidepost devotional that suggested replacing have with get. “Change one word and you change your attitude,” the Guidepost writer suggested and she elaborated. “Instead of saying ‘I have to do the laundry,’ try ‘I get to do the laundry because I have clothes.’ ”

So I’m trying. Replace have with get.

I get to go to the grocery story because I can choose what I eat.

I get to pay bills because my house has electricity and cable service and I have the money to pay.

I get to have my car serviced because I own a car.

I get to pick up the Grands from classes because I have grandchildren and I want to be with them.

I shared this idea with Husband. He grinned and nodded, and then surprised me the next day when he held our checkbook and his car keys in hand and said, “I get to go to the bank and then to the post office to mail a package.” I laughed and admitted that I wasn’t sure he’d heard me the day before.

Saying that I’m allowed, that I’m not obliged to do something, does make a difference in attitude. I like changing the negative have to the positive get.

Now I wonder if my young Grands will accept this change. I’m going to suggest they say get, instead of have, and I predict their answers in unison. “Do I have to?” But they, too, may surprise me.

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