There are some things in becoming a parent that make you forget a few of the tried and true aspects of etiquette that you’re trying to teach your children... For instance, mind your own business. I must say that at least once a day. When my daughter whines about another student doing the same thing I just told her not to – “Mind your own business! So and so is not my problem and what he does has nothing to do with you – just worry about yourself and don’t tell me how every other kid can do this or that...”
Sure, they try this tactic because in their little minds letting you know that it’s acceptable for other kids will certainly make you realize the error of your ways... heh, heh... The thing is, teaching them to mind their own business is a way of teaching them to be responsible for themselves; teaching them to measure their own progress on the effort they put. I’ll go back to my daughter here – she’s very bright, but she has a lazy gene. She already knows that putting in minimal effort will garner a B, while not trying at all will get her a C. When the truth of the matter is she could easily have straight A’s if she put in a good effort a majority of the time. She thinks I’m unfair in pushing because so and so gets B’s and her mother says it’s a good grade...
Here’s where it gets tricky, when my second child gets B’s or even C’s I don’t give him a hard time, I’m proud of him... why? Because he tries, every time. He’s got his good subjects and subjects that he needs to work a little harder on, but he always gives one hundred percent effort, which is exactly what I’m aiming for... That’s what I try to explain to my daughter, “Don’t look at how well or not well anyone else is doing. You have to do your best all the time because it’s your best. What someone else is doing won’t change the fact that you either tried hard or didn’t.”
I’m going to get a little preachy on you, but only for a second. I tell my daughter that she should not be the least bit proud of being bright or creative – she didn’t earn those things, she was blessed with them. She can be proud when she gives one hundred percent and uses the gifts God gave her – anything less is like not saying thank you for the blessings she has... Look, I don’t expect this 100% of the time. She’s a kid, and I know she’ll have years ahead of flaking off rather than moving forward... at the same time, I want her to get the concept. I don’t want her to turn around in adulthood and spend all of her time wanting what the neighbor has, or jealous because so and so has it so easy. I don’t want her to fall back on excuses for why she hasn’t done her best.
So, with all of this, ‘mind your own business’ business turning through my thoughts lately – what lesson of etiquette did I forget in my parental zeal? Yesterday at the playground a group of children (3 or 4 year olds) were playing hopscotch, and one of the little boys had a sucker in his mouth while trying to hop on one foot. I, being super conscious of the kind of damage that can cause because I have small children, got very nervous as he tottered around nearly falling a number of times... If he had been a child I knew, I would have told him not to jump with the sucker (I’m obnoxious like that). Instead I asked the group of moms standing around who he belonged to? And when the mom responded I just said, “You might want to have him take out the sucker while he’s hopping”
Said mom got very indignant, informing me that she is not a negligent parent and huffing halfway across the parking lot with her friends.
I ignored the cardinal rule, “Mind your own business”... I ignored parenting’s biggest challenge, not correcting other children when their parents are right there – unless it’s a parent who doesn’t mind... But the thing is, I certainly wasn’t trying to hurt this mom’s feelings and I definitely didn’t think she was negligent – I just thought she was having a hard earned minute of adult conversation and wasn’t really paying attention, just for a second... and if it was my kid, I’d want someone to catch it, whether it was to tell me or to correct them.
I don’t feel the least bit bad for butting in – I’d rather that than if I stood there silent and the kid fell and choked or something equally horrible. But then, it’s another of those things with parenting, nothing is really black and white. Just like English, every rule has exceptions... that’s what a moral compass is for.
For those of you who stopped in for a writing discussion but stayed for my maternal mutterings, thanks for the ear. What do you think? How do you teach your kids the big lessons and how do you deal with the lessons that have exceptions, or do you just do your good deeds by stealth? And another thing, why are mothers so blasted touchy? It wasn’t just this one; you can’t make a comment or suggestion to some people without them taking it as parental judgment... another reason to mind your own business unless you’re asked...