By Glenda Price: CNJ columnist
“Grownups never understand anything for themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.”
So French writer and aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupery wrote, in his novella, ‘The Little Prince’ in 1943.
We parents, all of us, have been taught by our children — often in ways we didn’t expect. We keep forgetting that our kids are paying attention at inopportune times. They watch what we do, hear what we say and remind us of their observations at unexpected, often embarrassing times.
When our older daughter was about 2 years old, she was watching her father shave one morning. He slipped and cut his chin. Before he could open his mouth she said, “Damn it.” That’s when anything resembling cursing stopped in our house.
When my husband was about 4 years old, his dad let him ride his horse to the barn and back every afternoon. They always got the eggs out of the hens’ nests, and every day without fail his dad admonished, “Be careful. Don’t let the eggs fall and get broken.”
One day Dad failed to give his little speech. Finally, about halfway back to the house the youngster said, “Well, aren’t you gonna say, ‘Don’t let the eggs fall?’”
Children are so utterly, disgustingly TRUTHFUL. School teachers tell me they learn all sorts of things about their students’ home lives, much of it not meant for public consumption. Still, we parents keep messing up even though we know better.
I have a ranch friend who remembers a milk cow they bought when their oldest child was just beginning to talk understandably. “My husband hated that cow,” she says.
One day some neighbors came by to visit, as country neighbors do, and that cow came trudging in to the barn. Their daughter pointed and said, “Look, here comes Dang Bitch. Early today.”
Their cow was like one we had once that my husband declared was like milking a mouse. Her teats were so small anybody with a normal size hand ended up trying to milk her with a thumb and one finger — laborious to say the least.
Our daughter told everyone who would listen we had a “mouse cow,” even though she wasn’t really sure what that meant.
When the kids get older, it gets better, right?
Wrong. When the kids become teenagers it gets worse. Suddenly, our kids are embarrassed by the way we dress (we look like dorks, whatever that is). They particularly don’t like the way we talk. Every parent has been subject to “Mother! How could you?!” when we’ve said something perfectly innocent, we thought.
Unfortunately, I remember behaving tackily myself when I was young and, of course, knew everything about everything. When my dad came over to help me saddle my horse at a rodeo I said, “I can saddle my own horse.” I didn’t say it nicely, either. Now that I look back I’m embarrassed at my stupid, boorish behavior.
My dad’s feelings were hurt but he was wise, and said nothing.