Monday, November 21, 2011

Real-Life Lessons

This article appeared in last Monday's newspaper. In the week since its original publication, I'm sorry to report, there are no updates to the story. Not that I expected anything different.

When you boil it down, a great deal of parental instruction falls into one major category: responsibility. Children need to know that it is their responsibility to brush their teeth, finish their homework, behave in an acceptable manner, and put on clean underwear.

As parents we keep on our kids about such things so that as adults they have their own teeth, achieve the tasks set before them, and behave as civilized contributors to a peaceful society. And wear clean underwear.

Yet we know that children aren’t perfect. They make mistakes, and mistakes lead to more lessons about responsibility. I’ve got no problem with that.

But what frustrates me to no end, makes me want to throw up my hands and yell something unsavory, is that even when a parent’s lesson is taken to heart and a child does exactly what has been taught, the outcome can still turn sour.

I’m not talking about getting cavities. That happens. Even completed homework can get eaten by the dog. It’s the bigger stuff.

Our daughter wanted her own iPod. Her mom and I discussed it. What are the positives? The negatives? Most importantly, has she demonstrated sufficient responsibility to warrant such a purchase?

Yes, she had, we agreed.

She responsibly saved her own money. She diligently bypassed short-term trifles for a long-term purchase. Basically, she proved us right.

She got her iPod.

She took care of it. She asked us before purchasing music or installing new apps. She designed and purchased her own iPod cover using a photo she took of a palm tree and printed “Palm Tree Girl” across the top. She used the alarm, took notes, read the news, and even read ebooks.

And then it got stolen.

Brilliant.

What do you say to that? Where is the lesson in this? “Sweetheart, sometimes even when you do everything right, someone else’s shallow actions and irresponsibility can take away something you’ve worked so hard for.”

Nice.

Welcome to the real world where not all people value responsibility, where a person’s long-term achievements can be crushed by another’s short-term greed, and where doing the right thing can still result in frustration, anger, and disappointment.

In all of this, however, I can give thanks that it’s a stolen iPod, not a missed meal. I can give thanks that my daughter has shown such responsibility and that the employees at the doctor’s office were empathetic.

So I’m thankful.

And through it all I have faith that the lessons my daughter has learned - and the lessons we’ve learned from her - will not be forgotten. She’s handled herself well, which brings joy to her mother and me. And we’ll all certainly take more care of our belongings.

So one might say I’m faithful, joyful, and more careful.

And I hope that maybe there’s a parent wondering why their child went to a doctor’s appointment and came home with an iPod. I hope someone will follow the request that appeared on the iPod’s screen to return it to the office where it was stolen. I’m hoping a friend or relative might question the appearance of an iPod where there wasn’t one before.

But honestly, I’m not hopeful.

Sorry. Just being truthful.

4 comments:

Jen said...

I'm totally new to your blog so I'm not sure if you've read I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen but I'd be curious to hear what you think about the book after this sad experience for your daughter.

I wish there was a way to protect our children from things like that where they don't really have any control but that's life! :(

Brian said...

I have not read it, unfortunately. I have seen it mentioned plenty on Twitter, but I've purposely tried to avoid learning too much about it until I read it.

I'll consider your comment a personal invitation to get the book and read it. Soon.

Brian said...

I Want My Hat Back is on order at the school library. Now we wait...

Brian said...

So I've read I Want My Hat Back. First of all, I think that book is absolutely hilarious. I'm excited to review it fully on the site and to share it with my students. My own family had a good laugh or two, that's for sure.

As to how it relates to my daughter's story, well, I guess it's good that people are governed by a different moral compass than bears.

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