I had a dream last night. A happy, wonderful dream. I dreamed that the boys listened to every word I said like I was Moses preaching from Mt Sinai. Or Spongebob talking about poop.
“Joe, Tell us, again, how WW2 started and don’t leave out any details.”
“Well boys, it all began…”
Four hours later. “Wow, that was the most interesting thing I’ve ever heard, Joe. Tell us more. Tell us everything you know about history, girls and Game of Thrones.”
Sadly real life is not at all like that. It is, perhaps, the greatest tragedy in a parent-child relationship. You know sh*t about some sh*t but they don’t want to hear anything you have to say.
Me: “If you hold the weed whacker like this, then …”
“I know, I know.” Then they proceed to ignore everything you just said and weedwhack a small crop circle into the lawn.
Or Me:“Don’t eat all that candy or you’ll throw up.”
2 hours later, they’re throwing up.
Me: “Ok, so the best way to type is…”
“I know how to type and besides, I’m not going to need to do that ever in my life.”
Or Me:“Get your raincoat, it’s gonna rain. You dunna wanna catcha cold.” (Sometime I believe they’ll listen if I use a Scottish accent.)
After school, he runs to the car in the rain and I say, “You’re soaking. Where’s your coat? And why do you only have one shoe?” The next day, he has a cold.
I get that sometimes they need to fail to understand or learn. I get that they don’t like to listen to their parents because, you know, they’re parents. I even get that sometimes we don’t know what we’re talking about.
Me: “So, ok, it wasn’t such a great idea to try using crazy glue on your puzzle so let’s go to the hospital and see if they can unstick your finger from your forehead.”
The weird thing, though, is that they do listen to some people. Teachers, oddly enough rank pretty high on that list. Coaches, sometimes. But anyone on the internet, anyone with a Youtube channel, well now, there’s where the real knowledge is.
“Don’t worry, Joe, I found out how World War 2 started. It was the Illuminati.”
Or worse, “Hey, where’s the skateboard? I just saw this awesome video on how you can skate off your roof and into a pool.”
Oh, if they’d only listen to us, I lament.
We have knowledge. Wisdom. Experience. And if they’d only listen, wouldn’t their lives be better, safer, far more efficient?
Am I wrong?
Oh, if they would only listen.
I just had one of these conversations with my middle. She wanted to do something one way. And I advised a different way. All this internal conflict for her about wanting my approval but also wanting to do it her way. I told her that this was perfectly within her abilities to handle on her own and that she didn’t have to take my advice. She did it her way. Her way worked just fine. She felt triumphant in a totally self-affirming, confidence-building way.
The trick, I think, is to let them do things their way at the earliest possible age as long as:
1. They are capable of doing it.
2. The consequences are minor, non-permanent and primarily affect them.
3. There are no safety concerns.
See, parents sometimes talk too much. Kids stop listening because the talking too much isn’t new information. If you stick to the concept above — you will cut out all the talking about things that should already be in their realm of responsibility. And only be teaching them NEW things. They’ll listen more.
(I stopped reminding my kids to bring their jackets at the age of four. I stopped reminding them about their homework in Grade 8. Their sports gear was always their responsibility (if they are old enough to play, they are old enough to keep track of their stuff).
What you do think? Does that make sense?