The wee ones are getting older, and they notice what my husband and I do. And I know from experience that their observations of what we do count far more in their behavior than simply what we tell them. I can hear my voice coming from Little Miss’s mouth when she tells her brother, “That is so not working for you. You might want to stop. Now.” Or when Mister Man tries to get the cats to do what he wants them to do, “5… 4… 3… 2…” and interestingly, they sometimes respond.
When it comes to things that will have more severe consequences, I’m trying to be smart about it, but it’s hard.
I know not to text and drive or check my email and drive, and I don’t. But if I’m at a stoplight that I know won’t move for a long time, it’s possible I sometimes sneak a look – and I shouldn’t. I know that they’ll figure out whether or not I’m just paying lipservice to using a turn signal and not speeding or tailgating and the like, so I make sure I’m driving safe and smart – although my husband continues to insist they don’t know any better. Mister Man has figured out what are “bad words” that he shouldn’t say by the simple mantra of “if you don’t hear Mommy using those words, they aren’t words you should use either.” And so far that’s working.
But I talk on the phone while driving, though I do my best not to (post yet to come on why that is). I absolutely do not want an inexperienced driver on the phone at all, whether it’s hands free or not. The thought of what could happen – to them or to someone else – panics me, and we’re years away yet from even thinking about a learner’s permit. We’ve been so conditioned to never be bored, to do more than one thing at a time, and to be always connected that it’s hard to step away from the phone in the car. The same goes for texting. It’s like Pavlov’s dog when that alert tone goes off. You know there’s something good and special waiting just for you… but it’ll have to wait.
I feel the same way about biking. We have rules that you have to wear close toed shoes while biking and always – Al.Ways. – wear a helmet. I make sure to model the same behavior, as well, but the good news is that we have examples that hit close to home. One of Little Miss’s friends wore sandals last summer while riding her bike, and they somehow got caught in the spokes. She tore off a lot of skin, in addition to badly spraining her ankle. She was on crutches for almost two months because her wound was so large the skin had to grow back and couldn’t close for that long, even after her ankle healed. And the mother of a friend almost didn’t wear a helmet until her daughter guilted her into it, fell and broke the helmet in half, plus broke her wrist. She had no head injury thankfully, but it was a graphic reminder of what could have happened if she hadn’t put the helmet on – and she brought it to school for a show and tell to the students.
There are time when I feel like That Mom because there are so many other children mine are friends with who have a completely different set of rules, and the wee ones sometimes don’t get it. “But Mommy, Johnny doesn’t have a booster seat” claims Little Miss who still isn’t 50 pounds. I agree, but then I explain why she is in a booster seat and that we have different rules for a reason.
I don’t want to wrap my children in bubble wrap, but it’s beyond critical to me that they stay safe through adulthood and learn to make solid decisions, knowing not just the boundaries but the whys of the boundaries. It’s a fine line, and sometimes I struggle with where it is. I would prefer to be slightly on the conservative side of it and keep the wee ones as safe as I’m able. I simply don’t want to be the person others point to as the object lesson of what can happen.
This post was inspired by the novel Those We Love the Most by Lee Woodruff as part of the From Left to Write book club where we write posts inspired by books rather than traditional reviews. You can read my traditional review of Those We Love Most on 5 Minutes for Books. You can also enter to win a live video chat with Lee Woodruff starting June 6. Again, I received a copy of the book for review purposes, but all opinions remain my own.