“Is this a life lesson?”
As we backed out of the snowy driveway, I muffled a laugh. So many things we say to our children are life lessons. Some seem more obvious than others.
Others sneak their way into everyday conversations. You don’t realize you’re imparting knowledge, important little facts about life that might help them succeed… or at least avoid catastrophic failure in life. But you are. You’re just talking about what you’re doing.
“Oh, see how they haven’t plowed the road yet? So we don’t know if there’s ice under the snow.”
“Do you know why bridges get icy faster than the road?”
“And that’s why you tap the breaks, not slam your foot on really hard.”
“Mom, I don’t think these things will make sense until we start learning how to drive.”
But much of what we say as parents is like that, I suppose. When I think back to the things my parents told me, the lessons they tried to or accidentally imparted, I didn’t get any of it at the time. I didn’t understand why eating well-balanced meals mattered until I ate a whole bunch of junk in college. As a teen who had only mild acne, I didn’t realize the importance of removing all my makeup, washing my face, and moisturizing until my mid-30s hormonal change—when my face became ten times worse than anything I experienced as a teenager.
Nothing about relationships or respect—for others or myself—or faith or health or education or anything mattered when I was a teen, let alone a tween.
But still, they kept talking to me. They kept teaching me things by talking to me, talking with me. To boot, they answered my questions. I asked a lot of questions while growing up; I ask a lot of questions now. We missed some stuff, my parents and I, because it was a different time; the 90s were weird, no?
It shouldn’t really surprise me that my two sons ask as many questions as they do. Maybe I’m less surprised than I am overwhelmed with the fact that I, along with my husband, am tasked with teaching these kids so much.
Things about driving in the snow. Driving in general. And why deer will run in front of your car instead of further away from the road. I don’t know why they do that. But they do. Things like dealing with friends. With enemies. Both with kindness. With teachers and doctors and people in authority; why it’s okay to question authority and how to do so with respect and when respect isn’t warranted and how to protect yourself from adults who abuse their authority. And when to say no.
It’s this monumental task, really.
It’s kind of horrifying. Because I don’t really know the answers myself. I can drive in the snow; I drove us through a blizzard to visit their sister once. I’d do it again, though maybe with my glasses on instead of with contacts plastered into my eye. There are lessons you don’t learn until you’re there, in the moment, with the snow gathering on your car as you drive around semis and down four lane roads with only one set of tracks. But you just keep driving because stopping is not an option, and ohmygod, seeing your children together is one of the only things that keeps you alive.
I feel like I’m not the best person to teach them to stick up for themselves as I struggle so much with it myself. I let people say things they shouldn’t say to me or anyone, really because calling them out or correcting them feels too intense, too big. If I just behave and stay the course and keep my eyes turned down when a man makes comments on my body shape, then maybe it’s not really real. I’m a pro at avoiding confrontation; I don’t want to raise my sons that way. I don’t know how I ended up this way, but I want better for them.
I don’t know how to raise them into thoughtful, caring adults who know how to drive in the snow and can say no, stop, you’re being an asshole and I don’t like it. But maybe if I just keep talking, keep sharing about the time a baby deer ran out in front of the car or how I slid on ice because I slammed the brakes and ended up bumping into a hillside or how men sometimes say really yucky things to me and that’s not acceptable, maybe, just maybe, they’ll take these life lessons with them into their futures.
Maybe they won’t understand them until they’re ready, until the situation presents itself, until the deer on the right side of the road decides to sprint to the left, until they see a woman walk by; but maybe all this talking will click, make sense, fall into place and they’ll know what to do in the moment.
I bet they’ll know what to do.