Things I Forget to Teach My Kids

Jun 2, 2010

My daughter, Jordan, and I went to the library last week. That, in and of itself, wasn’t a unique experience. I love the library and I’ve always tried to instill that same passion for reading in my children by taking them there regularly. What was unusual about our trip, however, was the conversation that followed regarding our visit later that same evening.
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Somehow, as I prepared dinner in the kitchen, and Jordan helped, we got onto the topic of late fees for overdue books.

“How much do library books cost?” Jordan asked.

“Well, if they’re late, they are 25 cents per day. So, if we have three books that are late for two days, we’d owe the library $1.50.”

“Oh,” said Jordan, as she put the vegetables in the salad. “But, how much do they cost?”

“Jordan,” already getting a little frustrated. “I just told you. 25 cents a day.”

“If they’re late, right?” Jordan said.

“Yes,” I told her.

“But how much do they cost?”

Cost? What was she talking about?

“Jordan, library books don’t cost anything. It’s free to check them out. If you live in Austin, you can go to the library and check out books at our library for three weeks for free.”

Jordan thought about this for a moment.

“Then why do you give them your card when you get them?”

What? Where was she going with this?

“So I can check out books. They need my card so that I can check out the books.” I was starting to get a little irritated with this conversation. How was I not explaining this clearly?

“But don’t they charge you on the card?”

Oh . . . . Aaaaah . . . Now I understood.

Jordan thought the library card was a credit card. She thought that when the librarian “swiped” it, she was charging me for it – just like when I went to Walmart or the grocery store.

It was a simple mistake. Easy to understand. But, it still made me feel bad. She didn’t understand this concept because I had never taken the time to explain it to her. I just assumed, as I find I do with a lot of things when it comes to my kids, that she already knew. That she understood. Library books are free. That’s the whole point of the library. Free books. Who doesn’t know that?
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Well, apparently my 7 year old, because I’d never stopped to tell her.

And, that got me to thinking about all the other things I just assume my kids know, but they really don’t.

Sometimes, my 3-yr-old will come home from school singing a song – a basic kids’ song, such as “If You’re Happy and You Know It” and I realize that I’ve never heard him singing that song before. His sister has sung it for years, but I’ve never heard him. And then I come to the understanding that he didn’t sing it, because he’d never heard it! I’d never taught him.

I just assumed that if his sister knew it, he must, too!

And, don’t even get me started on all the nursery rhymes and fairy tales I’ve neglected. I mentioned “Peter Piper” in passing to my daughter last week and she looked at me like I’d grown another head.

Really?” I thought. “I missed that one, too?”

It’s just that there is so much to learn in this life and so little time to get it all in. Sometimes – much of the time, it seems – I forget what it is I’m supposed to be “getting in” in the first place – and if not that, which child still needs to hear about it.

Take swimming, for example. My daughter has had swimming lessons every year since she was a year old. In fact, she attended a private school for kindergarten and 1st grade where they had swim lessons once a week as part of the curriculum. She is a fabulous swimmer.

And then there’s my boys. Sometimes, when we go to the pool, I feel like turning to them and saying, “What? You don’t know how to swim? Really? Really?”

My poor baby, Maclain, is going to get the worst end of the home-educational stick, I fear. Not only do I forget to teach him things, but I don’t even think the poor kid has ever watched an episode of Sesame Street. His brother and sister are “past” that phase and so, that program just never seems to be turned on in our house anymore.

I am raising a child who will not know who Bert and Ernie are!

They should take away my parenting license.

How will any of my kids ever win a game of Trivial Pursuit at the rate we’re going?

When you initially become a parent, there is a sense of enthusiasm about all the things you’ll “get” to teach your child. Things that were (and still are) important to you.

And then you realize the “list” of things you’re supposed to be teaching . . . and to not just one child, but often, multiple children.

It’s enough to make you want to go back to bed in the morning.

Still, I trudge along . . . trying to make sure that I cover all the bases with each child . ..  that each one learns the basics: their ABCs, their numbers, children songs, famous bedtime stories, and so on.

After all, I don’t want to someday have a 35-year-old “child” of mine come to me and say, “Why do I never know what it means when someone says a person is “crying wolf?”

Hmmm . . .
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Guess I know what children’s story we’re working on today!

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