Thursday, February 18, 2010

Stay tuned for Family Life, starring..............YOU

My kids have this warped idea that life is supposed to be fair. I know, I don't get it either. I guess it's just this last remaining vestige of their innocence that sticks around until their teenage years. Well anyway, today my son asked me if I knew anyone at my old school who was "mean and not very nice". I chuckled a bit and thought carefully about my answer, because kids are never asking the question you actually hear them ask. You have to find the question behind the question. That's the one you have to be ready for. You see, he was really asking me why some kids at school do mean things, when he tries so hard to be nice to them.

My kids have a strong sense of justice. In their world all things are equal and in balance. A little too Ying and Yang for me, but oh well. Good things are supposed to happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. Adults on the other hand, know that life doesn't always - or should I say, EVER - work out that way. Life is not that 30 minute sitcom or Hallmark movie. We know what really happens. Raise your hand if you've been taken advantage of, I know I have. How many people wish their life turned out better or different? I can scarecly think of anyone who wouldn't mind a do-over here or there.

With all that swirling through my brain, I answered his question this way. I told him that every nice kid can be mean and every mean kid can be nice. He agreed that he'd been mean himself a time or two, in the name of justice of course! I went on to say that life was not like a TV show. Life's problems don't get solved every night before bedtime. In fact, some problems never get solved. Sometimes you get kicked in the teeth and there's nothing you can do about it - don't worry, I used more temperant wording. Finally, I assured him that we would sit down one day when he's older and swap horror stories and laugh.

As I'm answering his question I start to wonder if I suffer from this sitcom psychology? Am I expecting all my problems to be solved by some hero-figure just in the nick of time? I ask this because I realize my kids are watching me. You know, the whole actions speak louder than words thing. Like if I say, "Quit yelling" but then I go on to yell at them every week, what message am I really conveying?

So I guess we all have to be careful not to over-parent our kids. In other words, we can't solve all their problems, and yet we can't expect them to figure it all out in 30 minutes like they're the Cosby kids. Life just kind of happens and it's out of our control. Isn't it how you respond, not react, that speaks to the kind of person you are? I can't help but remember that my kids are always watching, listening and learning. Do they see someone who has an unrealistic idea of life - either good or bad - or do they see someone who can teach them that when life gives you lemons, make the proverbial lemonade? I hope I'm the lemonade guy, for my kids' sake.

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