Sometimes when I try to explain something to my kids, especially when they’ve made a mistake, they really don’t want to hear it. In all honesty, they just want to get as far away from me as they can. Or they just want me to shut up. As my son says at these times, “Dad, I don’t need a life lesson.” I remember the first time he said that to me. I was shocked, I was surprised, I was hurt. Yes, I was hurt.
Part of my job as a father is to help my kids not make the same stupid mistakes I did. Isn’t that what all Dads (and Moms) want for their kids, to live a better life than they did? And to not learn things the hard way. Because of this, there are times we just want to explain a little bit and make sure they make the connection between what they did or did not do and what came out of it. As my kids have gotten older I’ve learned that they’re actually very insightful. They already see the connection that I’m trying to show them, to explain to them. I’ve come to understand why they don’t want another life lesson. Not that it always stops me – sometimes you just need to say what you need to say. Just sayin’.
I remember one of the first times my dad gave me one of those true life lessons. I was probably about 12 years old and told one of my friends who had totally aggravated me to screw. No, that’s not a nice substitute for the F-Bomb; it’s really what I said. Now that may seem tame by today’s standards, but telling someone to screw, and a friend at that, in those days was pretty strong. When I turned to go into my house my Dad was standing there, not looking very happy. Apparently, he had seen and heard the whole situation. The first thing Dad did was make me apologize to my friend, which I thought was totally ridiculous after how he had been acting. Then came the life lesson. Three decades later, I don’t remember the exact words he used or even everything we talked about, but a couple of things have stuck with me. One thing I remember clearly was that my father didn’t yell at me once during the conversation. The other is that he reversed the situation and it was me being told to screw, and he asked me how I’d feel in that situation. I totally got what he was saying: you treat people as you’d like to be treated. It’s the “Golden Rule”.
I know there were plenty of other life lessons from my parents, some so important that I still remember them today. But here are some other things I also learned from my family:
· Never let someone convince you that something will taste as good as something else, when you know that their having to convince you means something is wrong. Nine kids from my family can tell you that powdered milk does not taste just like regular milk, liver does not taste just like steak (even with ketchup) and carrots mashed up do not taste just like squash.
· Always check the toilet paper roll before you sit down. Once you’ve done your duty, it’s too late. You’ll be at the mercy of others who may not have your best interests at heart.
· If your older brothers do something to help “toughen you up” or teach you a lesson and tell you “Don’t tell Mom!”, then don’t tell Mom. Otherwise the next time will be much worse. Besides, later in life when people give you a hard time, you’ll laugh at their pitiful attempts to intimidate you.
· If you’re a little wary of doing something but your older brothers are encouraging you to just do it, that “nothing bad is going to happen”, something bad is going to happen.
· If your girlfriend has pet names for you, such as Snookie Wookums or Pookie Bear, never let her call you that in front of even one of your brothers and sisters. That is, unless you want to be called that by your whole family for a long time, even after she’s not your girlfriend anymore.
Your family can teach you a lot, things that will help you through life. The important thing is that you take these life lessons and pass them on. Your kids might act as though they don’t want to hear it, but some day they will thank you for sharing those gems with them. Well, maybe not, but at least when they’ve gone to college or moved out on their own they’ll check the toilet paper on the way in to the bathroom.