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Wisdom used Against Parents

By Dorothy Rosby

I told my son he could get a cell phone as soon as he proved he was responsible enough to take care of it. Then I misplaced mine. Luckily he was able to find it for me—in the garbage can in the garage.

If that weren’t bad enough, he hadn’t even had his own phone a year when I washed it in the washing machine. Naturally, he was a little perturbed, so I told him it wouldn’t have happened if he did the laundry, to which he replied, “Take responsibility for your actions, Mom.” Where did he hear that?  

Half the time our kids don’t seem to listen, and when they do, they act like they don’t believe us anyway. But then when we least expect it, they pipe up and use our own wise words against us. For example, I've told my son repeatedly that he should always finish what he starts. Then one day I quit a computer football game we were playing. “You should always finish what you start,” he said. I told him I hadn't wanted to play the stupid game in the first place; I hate football; and the darn computer game was taking longer than a real one. “Don’t make excuses, Mom.” Oh ya.  

Back when he was younger and I was smarter, he and I had a lovely, heartfelt discussion about the conscience. Several days later, he informed me that his conscience had told him not to eat cooked broccoli. When I turned up my nose at a dessert he’d created using peanut butter and Nesquick, he reminded me that I should be willing to try new foods.  

And that’s what makes passing our hard earned wisdom on to our children so challenging. How can we teach them to do as we say when WE don’t always do as we say? Or at least, I don’t. Quite often I catch myself telling my son to stop yelling in the house by . . . well . . . yelling in the house.  

parentingI tell him that it's important that we pay our bills on time, but I'm not sure I'd ever pay his allowance on time if he didn't remind me. I'm not sure I'd ever pay his allowance AT ALL if he didn't remind me. It's just that I don't always have cash on hand. I know; don't make excuses.  

I cut off a telemarketer the other night by saying in my best breathless, hurried voice, “Sorry. I can’t talk. I’m just headed out the door.” I wasn’t breathless, hurried, or headed out the door, but I thought that was nicer than what I wanted to say. Nice or not, when I hung up the phone, my son said, “You aren’t going anywhere! You lied!” Oh. Thanks for pointing that out, honey.  

Our children could get the impression watching us that they should never say naughty words—except in traffic; that they should always speak kindly of others—unless they disagree with them politically; and that they should always respect their elders—except for the referees at professional sporting events.  

We tell them to go get some fresh air and exercise—from our place on the couch. We tell them not to talk on the cell phone when they drive—even if we do. We tell them patience is a virtue; then we lose ours. Or at least I do, and fairly often too.

And that, I suppose, is an excellent time to teach them that nobody is perfect. I think they’ll see the wisdom in that.  

You can send your parental wisdom to drosby@rushmore.com or visit  http://www.dorothyrosby.com


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