I am falling short in the advice-giving department of parenting, especially with regards to gratitude. I realized this after my teenage son broke his arm skiing recently when he was with friends. A man and his daughter stopped to ask if he was OK.
“I think I need ski patrol,” my son said, grimacing in pain. “My arm feels broken.”
“Your legs still work, right?” the man asked.
“Then you can ski down yourself,” the man said.
“Oh. Yeah. Right. Thank you so much for your help. Thank you!” my sweet son gushed to those super helpful people before getting up and skiing downhill with the broken arm. “And don’t worry, Mom, I thanked them, like, the rest of the way down,” he told me from the emergency room right before the orthopedic surgeon set his bone. Luckily, he didn’t fall and make the break any worse. But he could have. And it would have been partly my fault.
I have always told my kids to be not just polite, but the MOST polite people in a room. To always thank people who help them because gratitude and appreciation are so important. But now I realize that I may have gone overboard and failed to prepare them for situations where common sense needs to override gratitude and good manners. Of course I warned them about overtly threatening situations, such as the well-dressed man who randomly offers candy from his car. But what about more subtle situations where people appear to be helping but may not have the skills or judgment to provide legitimate assistance?
In short, I forgot the advice asterisk.
And now that my kids are teenagers, they usually ignore any advice I give them and do the opposite of whatever I suggest. So, I’ve probably missed my window. But for the sake of other parents whose children are still young enough to care what they think, here’s how I would have modified some of the advice I gave my kids:
1. You can make up for a lot of shortcomings by being nice and polite to people. *But don’t be so nice that you fail to stick up for yourself when needed.
2. Live as if you were to die tomorrow. *But don’t make risky choices like doing drugs or driving recklessly or you actually might die tomorrow.
3. Learn as if you were to live forever. *No asterisk needed. Really do that.
4. To thine own self be true. *Unless your own self has become someone with questionable morals. If so, change into a better person.
5. Apply yourself diligently to the task at hand because you never get back the time you waste. *Xbox is actually the wasting time part of that one, not the task, unless you’re legitimately planning to be a surgeon, in which case you should play more Xbox to develop your fine motor skills.
6. Assume nothing. *Except that your family will be disappointed if you fail to remember their birthdays or Mother’s Day or Father’s Day.
7. Offer to help others. *But don’t get so sucked in to other people’s problems that you ignore your own health or your own problems.
8. Be careful what you post. *And guard your passwords and devices with your life so other people don’t post “for” you.
9. Find your passion. *In life. There’s plenty of time for the other kind.
I’m sure there is a lot more advice that needs an asterisk. Good luck with figuring that out. I’ll be dealing with the fallout of my inadequate advice giving for years to come and my kids will probably blame me for most of their problems. Oh, wait, that should be included in my list:
10. Take responsibility for your mistakes. *Your mother is not always to blame.