One of my outstanding qualities as a parent — I won’t label it a strength or a weakness; I’ll let my kids (or their future therapists) decide that — is that I believe everything is a teachable moment. No life experience can be allowed to slip by without some Learning.
I’m sure this gets tiresome for them. Well, I know it does. I’ve known this ever since Chris was four and I was encouraging him to ride his tricycle up a small incline. I started explaining how if you stop, it gets harder to start again, then got diverted into a little riff on how Life Is Like That, and when things get hard, you shouldn’t give up because it’ll be harder to get going again. Chris sighed and said, “Mom, you can stop talking now.”
Anyway, for your learning pleasure, here are a couple of my most recent Teachable Moments.
TM #1: Trudy and Christopher, on Swimming in the Deep End
Chris is quite a good little swimmer but is scared of going into the deep end, which is starting to hamper his progress now that he’s moved up to a new level of swimming lessons. We discussed this one night while I was lying down on his bed with him.
Trudy: You know, you’re a very good swimmer for your age, Chris. You’re probably a better swimmer than I am. And once you can swim, even a little bit, you shouldn’t be afraid of the deep end.
Chris: But I can’t touch bottom!
Trudy: But you don’t need to! If you can swim, you can keep afloat by treading water, or even just dog-paddling. It doesn’t matter how much water is underneath you as long as you can swim.
Chris: The deep end is sixteen feet deep. People have drowned there.
Trudy: I’m pretty sure no-one has ever drowned in the deep end at the Aquarena. In fact, if you can swim, it’s almost impossible to drown in a swimming pool unless you hit your head or something. A good swimmer might drown in the ocean, if you were far enough from shore, because you might just get tired and not be able to make it to the shore. But in a pool you’re always close to the side or to a rope, so you can always swim that far. So a person who can swim might drown in the ocean, but it would be almost impossible for them to drown in a pool.
Chris: (pause). Great. Now you’ve made me afraid of the ocean!!
OK, so that didn’t go as well as I’d expected. But maybe I’d have better luck with
TM #2: Trudy and Emma on The Evils of Advertising and the Need for Nutritious Breakfasts
Emma: There’s this really good commercial for Pop-Tarts on YTV.
Trudy: (ever alert to mentions of advertising) Really? What is it?
Emma: (Describes Pop-Tarts commercial in great detail, which involves going to ytv.com to play a Pop-Tarts video game).
Trudy: Hmm. Does sound like a fun game. And what do you think they want you to buy?
Emma: Um … I think they just want you to play the game.
Trudy: No honey, commercials always want you to buy something. That’s why they make them.
Emma: Oh, maybe they want you to buy … a Pop-Tart?
Trudy: Yes, I think they might. Do you know what Pop-Tarts are?
Emma: They’re like … bread, but with frosting and sprinkles on them.
Trudy: You know, they’re really more like a cookie or a piece of cake. And some people eat them for (pause for dramatic effect) … BREAKFAST!
Emma: (shocked gasp). No! Wow, that’s not the way to get your vegetables.
(Note: I do realize that a bowl of Special K with a glass of juice is also not “getting your vegetables.” But I got the gist of what she was saying, which is that — bless her — she knows the difference between a healthy breakfast and one that isn’t).
Emma: You know, it’s a bad idea to eat cake for breakfast, because then you might just go around eating cake all day, because you’d think, “Well, I ate it for breakfast so it must be OK.”
Trudy: Right. And also, you wouldn’t have the energy you’d need for the day. Well, you might get kind of a burst of energy at first, because sugary foods will do that, but then it would go away and you’d feel really tired and have no energy.
Emma: (obviously thinking back to previous Teachable Moments) Oh! You mean … kind of like — drugs?!
Well yes, I did, on another occasion, explain that drugs are things that people take that make them feel good for a short time but then feel really, really bad afterwards. So apparently I have succeeded in equating Pop-Tarts with narcotics in my daughter’s mind. Which means I’m doing great for nutritional training, but not so good with the drug education. Hope she doesn’t wind up in the gutter nibbling Pop-Tarts for a quick fix.
Parenting. You just never catch up, do you?