Parenting may not come with a manual, I get that. But it could at least come with some sort of checklist or task manager or something. Every morning is anew with things that you need to impart, a piece of wisdom you feel like you should probably drop, a do or don’t that—if not shared—may derail some socially unacceptable faux pas when they’re at their first college party or on a date with someone they, and possibly you, really like.
It’s impossible to remember to tell them everything, try as you might. Heck, sometimes it’s hard just to be sure they leave the house with their teeth brushed and their lunch in hand. But there are some key things that are a little harder to make sure the kids know before they leave the arch of safety and spoonfed lesson-learning that is your home. Mainly because they’re just tough to learn as an adult, much less a child.
You’re not going to be good at everything. There are some things they’re going to be mediocre at, and that’s OK. Everybody can’t be a superstar at everything or there wouldn’t be any superstars.
The people in charge don’t have all the answers. How do you tell your kid that chances are, they’ll have a boss or a supervisor at some point in their working life who’s completely incompetent and isn’t qualified to manage a baseball card collection let alone a team of other people? We teach them from early on that teachers, cops, judges, even the president, are to be respected because they’re in positions of authority and have a reasonable portion of expertise to be there. But you and I both know that ain’t always true.
Credit is golden. I didn’t start understanding the whole FICO score thing until I was well into my 20s and had unceremoniously destroyed my credit with a Visa issued to me in my jobless, moneyless, have-a-way-to-pay-my-bill-less freshman year of college. My mom had taught me about saving (even though I didn’t do it), but she forgot about credit and even better, creditors. That one slipped through her mental cracks. I assume she was waiting until she thought I was old enough to understand and just got sidetracked by lessons about boys or parallel parking or the infestation that would certainly erupt if I didn’t clean out the dish drain or any number of other things.
What books say isn’t always true. Picking and choosing which newspapers to put faith and trust in is hard enough for an adult, let alone kids who have information coming at them from every direction. Encourage critical thinking—but let kids know they have to discuss their findings in a respectful way, to you and their teachers—and hopefully they’ll develop their own sensibilities for what’s valid.
Not everyone is going to be your friend. This one is especially tricky because in one breath, you’re convincing them how completely and totally wonderful they are, how they’re a gift to your life—and anyone else who knows them, for that matter—and how they have so many contributions just waiting to be shared with the rest of the world. But then you’ve got to turn around and let them know that not everyone is going to share that same enthusiasm about them.
You’re going to have to deal with it. Like is full of wonderful experiences and moments of blissful serenity. Those can be fleeting, however, so in the meantime, kids have to learn how to ride life out and suck it up. Seeing as how plenty of adults haven’t mastered the technique yet, it’s a toss-up whether the next gen will get the memo. All we can do is lead and hope.
What are some of the trickiest things you’ve had to teach your kids?
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