Do As I Say, Not As We Do

June 5, 2013 by Michelle

FL2W disclosure

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.

Talking on the phone in the car

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.

We always wear our helmets

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.

Those We Love Most by Lee Woodward cover

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.

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  • Eva

    I have considered wrapping mine in bubble wrap, but the neighbors… so…
    They are definitely watching. When my kids want my attention and I am glued to a device, they say – “Look mommy! I sent you a text message – did you SEE it?” I have to try to be a better model for them.

    • Michelle

      I’m guessing the bubble wrap isn’t such a good idea for many reasons, huh? It’s tempting though… I do my best to be present when they’re around, but I am not always the best at it.

  • jodifur

    I’m terrible about checking my phone at stoplights. I need to stop that!

    • Michelle

      I KNOW! I just want to get things cleaned out because I want it to be an empty inbox, but… there’s nothing that can’t wait. Ever. It’s just so fulfilling to be done with it. I’m SO much better than I was though.

  • Emily

    It’s such a fine line. You don’t want to hold them back in any way, but you don’t want to take any chances either. I’m with you. When it comes to my kids’ safety, I’m conservative.

    • Michelle

      No, holding them back isn’t the answer either. You end up with children who don’t know how to be adults when they grow up, and there are far too many of those already. Safety though? That’s slightly different in my mind.

  • Alicia S

    I’ve always believed in leading by example, but even if you don’t believe in that; trust me, they will always follow the example you set. So it may as well be a good one! Speaking of wrapping the kids in bubble wrap there is a Priceline commercial where the kid is wrapped in bubble wrap, it’s hilarious! They use him as a human basketball 😀

    • Michelle

      Leading by example is so key. Every time I see research about how children follow what they see more than what they’re told, I take a deep breath.

      I haven’t seen that commercial, but I think I have to go look it up now. Sounds funny!

  • Amy, Using Our Words

    Oh, there are so many things I shouldn’t do that I do. Thanks for the reminder that my little ones are so very impressionable. Even when I don’t realize it.

    • Michelle

      That’s the scary thing – you don’t realize it. And then suddenly I hear the report about EXACTLY what my husband was doing that he wasn’t supposed to do when they’re little and I figure out that there are no secrets, and they have eyes everywhere. But only when I don’t want them to 😉

  • Pat

    I am kind of shocked when I think back to when our boys were young…the law was that they had to be 4 years old or 40 pounds before they no longer had to be in a car seat, but at that age/weight, a booster seat was recommended. So our eldest was in a booster seat by the summer of 1982 when he had reached 40 pounds, but was 3 months short of 4 years. Now he and his wife are expecting their 3rd son in August, so they bought a Honda Odyssey so as to fit in all the car seats and kid paraphernalia…for a 5-year-old, a 3-year old and a newborn (boy). I’m glad the law has changed to 8 years or 8 pounds as the transition point…or am I still out-of-date on that age/weight? I still remember that we had Nathan, 2+ months short of age 4, sit in the front passenger seat of our Ford Escort when we drove 10 hours down to San Diego for a week’s vacation (and back) and he was the navigator, reading the map to Jerry and telling him what the next town would be that we’d go through. I’m shocked now that we did that. At that tender age, he could read well and he always looked older than he was because he was so tall….when he was 2, people thought he was 4; when he was 4 he looked like he was 6…and now he’s 6’5″.. The plus was that I sat in the back between the two younger boys’ car seats, thus ending squabbles between them. Well, it wasn’t really a plus for me because…have you ever sat in the back seat of a Ford Escort with a person on either side of you and done that for 10 hours? But I sacrificed my comfort for peace in the car with three little boys. I’m glad that you stay on the conservative side of child safety! You’ll never have to berate yourself with “I should have…..”

    • Michelle

      Every state is different. Illinois is 8 and 80 pounds BUT when I went to the Lifesaver’s Conference in April, there was information on research around safety and such, and most kids shouldn’t be out until 10-12. Mister Man is still in a booster seat at 58 inches and 9 1/2 years old because he doesn’t sit right without one. The best quote was something around “The laws are a minimum, not a limit” when it comes to booster seats and the like. That said, I remember driving to Florida on the floor of the car curled into the space between the seat to get comfortable. Yikes!

      As for the Escort? I actually have done that. I rode in an Escort from Chicago to New Orleans TWICE round trip in the back seat with four friends – one of whom was 6’4″ and also in the back. I think that may have been the end of my road trips, now that I think about it….

  • Pat

    Oops–I was off by a year on the summer we drove to San Diego with Nathan in the front passenger seat. It was 1983, the summer just before kindergarten for him, so he was going on 5, not going on 4. Still, these days we’d never have a 4-going-on-5-year-old sit in the front seat in a booster seat!

  • ally

    I routinely see kids, third grade students, getting out of the front seat of their parents car, in the morning. My children, who at 8 ride in the back in boosters, don’t even know the front seat is an option. It isn’t. Being safe without being crazy is the goal, it’s not easy but it’s worth the effort. Now, do I always wear my bike helmet? No, and I should, and I know that. I absolutely agree with leading by example. Do as I say, not as I do, just doesn’t fly around here.

    • Michelle

      Mine will occasionally ask me about it because so many of their friends have older siblings and ummm more lax parents. But they get it. I never used to wear a bike helmet – who did when we were growing up? – but I definitely do now. After seeing my friend’s injury, I won’t be without one again.

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