Friday, April 20, 2012

Teachable Moments

A great part of parenting is teaching your children skills and information that will enrich their lives.  When kids are small, we teach them how to put on their jackets by laying them upside down on the floor and flipping them over their heads.  We teach them how to hold a spoon and drink from a cup, and how many ice cubes Mommy likes in her Pinot Grigio.

When they are older, we teach about family traditions.  We teach them family history by telling stories about our ancestors and what life was like for us as kids.  We teach holiday traditions: they learn that we celebrate Thanksgiving with a family trip and that they can look forward to a week at the shore in the summertime.  They find out that Santa brings presents and the tooth fairy brings money, and that at Christmastime Grandpa lets them drink from his whiskey glass when Mommy leaves the room.

A more mature age is needed to teach kids about the nuances of human relationships, like how to forgive a friend, or how to encourage each other, or how many days the silent treatment lasts when Daddy complains to Mommy about how long he has to “babysit.”

By far the most entertainment I’ve gotten from teaching my children is through helping them discover and develop their senses of humor.  They are old enough to tell a joke, play a prank, and see humor in everyday situations.  I’ve taught my daughter how to make fart noises into the crook of her elbow, and my son how to rig the kitchen sprayer to soak an unsuspecting victim.

Unfortunately, kids will pick up things that aren’t meant to be taught.  For instance, you may find yourself being asked to define a swear word, or you may even hear your child use one incorrectly, adding another lesson to your repertoire.  They may reveal to strangers private information, like when my daughter told her friend’s mother that I got sick on vacation because I drank too much beer.  Then you have to reinforce rules that certain information isn’t meant for public consumption. (Too be fair, I was sick afterwards.  Incidentally, I drank rum on vacation, not beer.)

Despite my zeal about life education, I worry about the appropriateness of certain lessons.  Are my children old enough to responsibly use the terms “banana hammock” and “over-the-shoulder-boulder-holder?”  Can they find the subtle humor in the poem “Milk, milk, lemonade.  Around the corner, fudge is made?” Can they learn to use it appropriately?

Only time will tell.  That, and possibly a call from school.  Or maybe a friend’s irate parent.



  1. This week I had to inform one of my sons why "That's not what your mom said last night" is not a funny or appropriate response to something (thankfully he was completely clueless as to what it meant, and said "Oh...well, kids at school say it all the time...but I didn't know it was bad...") And a few weeks back, Luke raised his hand during the childrens' story at church on Palm Sunday and said "I know another another word for 'donkey'!!" Yeah, they sure DO pick up everything!!

    1. They sure do. I have introduced a lot of my kids' gross-out humor, on purpose and by accident. Generally I try to avoid sexual overtones for kid-friendly joking, with a possible exception made for funny names for body parts. And ew - that "mom" line. I feel that it's only appropriate for actors who play crude characters on TV. Say it in a conversation, and I'm looking for the truck balls hanging off your pickup's hitch.