Friday, January 13, 2017

Living By The Rules (when you don't want to)

A long time ago, some (hopefully) wise person told me about 'teachable moments.' Those are the times when some issue arises with your kid that really resembles a teeth-grinder. Instead of grinding, though, whoever this wise person was (and I really don't have a clue) says parents should embrace those times as a teachable moment.
I grew to rather hate teachable moments. Why? Because they were so great, I might have over-used them.
Ask my oldest son.
I'd find myself embracing a teachable moment with him (when he was an earl;y adolescent), and as I launched out on the teaching, he'd say "You're going to tell me about the time you got pushed out of the tree-house again, aren't you?"
I hated that. Smart-alec kid.
I probably came by the trait, at least in part, by observing my step-dad. Later, he described himself as the kind of guy who tells you how to build a watch, when what you asked was what time it was.
But I had another teachable moment this morning with 12 year old Kenneth, and it just seemed to go on and on and on....
We have a rule in the house which I established maybe 20+ years ago, as a desperation move when I was parenting two ADD children and a teen ager. The rule was: nothing gets signed in the morning. I remembered too many mornings as a kid, trying to get a parent signature while throwing on my coat, and it always produced conflict. I REFUSED to permit conflict in the morning with my kids, which extended to getting them up earlier so they could have peaceful time before getting on the bus, and it worked. It took extra effort, but ask my kids: they will all tell you that it was a very rare occasion when they were stressed out when they left the house. It is, I believe, one of my proudest accomplishments as a parent.
(Don't believe me? I'm gonna email my three biological kids, and ask them to respond in the comments section.)
But on THIS morning, Kenneth sheepishly came to me with a piece of paper in his hand and asked "Papa Pat, can you sign this syllabus for my Health class?"
To which I replied: "No, I can't."
And I didn't have to explain it to him; he knew why, and he also knew I don't back off on a rule like that, so he didn't argue. I reminded him to give it to me when he got home, and I told him to explain the house rule to his Health teacher, so that they would know he hadn't TOTALLY blown it off.
Now Kenneth didn't want to follow that rule, and frankly, I didn't either. But I held us to the standard, because it would work out better that way in the long run.
And shortly after that, I told him we would probably be able to resume his morning free time (from 7 AM, when Alicia Ann gets on the bus, until 8 AM, when he has to start getting ready) next week, because it looked like my sinus infection was improving; but that I had just been too sick this week to make it happen. And then I told him that it kind of amazed me that his mom, my gift-from-God, happily-ever-after trophy wife Vanessa, the elegant, foxy, praying black grandmother of Woodstock, GA, had been able to go to work this week with the cold that she had. And I closed by saying that that was part of being an adult: you did things, even when you didn't want to do them. Which is true.
And then I booted up the computer, and ate my Cheerios, and drank my coffee, and looked at my email.
And there were three emails waiting for me about gun sales, and one about a new You Tube video the Yankee Marshall had made on a firearms topic. I wanted to open them! But I can't. I have eight more days to go.
It's a rule I have to live by. One I made for myself, but I don't WANT the rule.
On the other hand, it is doing what it is supposed to do: the time I WAS spending reading about firearms and researching ammo, I'm now spending reading and reviewing and writing this blog. So, I'm okay.
Happy Friday the 13th. Wear red, if you can. RED = Remember Everyone Deployed, until they all come home.


  1. Wise advice, as always. I'm trying to teach mine to talk to me when they come through the door about school, which helps remind them (usually) if they have papers I need to see.

  2. Favorite child of Papa here. One of my absolute favorite memories of childhood was sitting down to a bowl of oatmeal, and my older (less favorite) brother and my Papa reading the Bible aloud. I read from Psalms, brother read from Proverbs, and Papa usually read from Hebrews, but dis jump around sometimes. I think that's mainly how I learned to read. I didn't know at that young age the power of the Word to relieve and prevent stress, but thankfully had 2 parents who did. And yes, any strest in my mornings was self-imposed. I had PLENTY of time for snuggles, a shower if desired (what kid likes showering in the morning?????) a good breakfast, and some reading time. Which I sometimes forfeited to spend my morning laying on the floor holding the handle of the shirt drawer that I needed to open in order to get dressed, and then there was mild fussing and screaming (on my part) about not getting my butt out the door.
    Still to this day, I get up with my own 2.5 year old son, get him breakfast, get me coffee and water (and usually cereal) and we have a 1-2 hour 'wake up' time. It's very important to me to not feel rushed or stressed in the morning, especially with my ADD and anxiety. It can derail my entire day if I feel like I wake up in a screaming session.

  3. Morning routines evolved over time but my father is factually correct in his assertion that there was contract of peace in the early hours.

    With a pontificating padre and an insolent yet beautiful sister it is no small feat that there was little conflict in our household. The youngest in the household must still have been in bed. He had the right idea – wait until the food was prepared and swoop in for the good parts of the morning before the bus comes.

    As to teachable moments that we say we hate but truly love, my own son – one week away from being 4 – has taken up the mantle of wise-cracking juvenile: As my wife and I were driving the other morning, bantering back and forth about the recently released SING soundtrack and whether or not a singing gorilla is better than a singing rat (I’m on “team contrarian”, by the way) we hear from the back seat a small voice firmly and evenly asserts, “Settle down, you guys.” And the thing of it is…we did. Go figure.

    1. The littlest one was waiting for his screaming banshee of a sister to come and jump on his bed and get him up, or for both older siblings to come up with some new and fun way of bothering him so he could tell on us.

    2. You're just jealous that I'm the biggest. My most fond memory is not of a morning ritual but a going to sleep one. Whenever Papa knew that I wouldn't attempt to go to sleep he would sit next to me rub my head and calmly and softly say "It's time to get some sleep and close your itty bitty kitty eyes". The assurance of safety and love of that simple gesture will always stick with me.