My eight-year old is in the kitchen. There is fumbling going on, banging. I am trying to encourage self-sufficiency so I keep quiet and listen from my bedroom.
One moment passes while I sit on my hands, hold my tongue.
“We’re out of paper towels!” she yells out to me.
“In the hallway closet,” I yell back, possibly unhelpfully.
“Which hallway closet?” she yells back.
There are a few things I could say about this exchange.
- We yell more than we should.
- There is only one hallway in our house.
- There is only one hallway closet in our hallway.
Granted, there is a coat closet (at the end of the hallway) which is where my daughter is at the moment, apparently searching for the paper towels among the winter coats and umbrellas.
“They’re not in here,” she yells, muffled by wool and fake fur.
This is when I realize (not for the first time) that perhaps I am teaching my children all the wrong things. Or more accurately, just not covering enough of the right things, the basic things.
Here are the things I know for sure that they know:
- That dessert will likely come after dinner. Negotiation (and veggies) may be necessary.
- How to respond on the count of three. (right at 2 1/2, usually).
- Exactly how to drive one another (and me) out of their gourd.
- That they are loved. Infinitely.
- How to be kind.
- How to get through an “adult dinner” with pretty decent table manners and impressive patience.
- That they are good people. And that they come from good people.
- Not to approach a dog without asking the owner first.
- How to wipe.
- To say please and thank you.
Things I am not sure they know:
- Where we keep the toilet paper, the milk, the cat food and obviously, the paper towels.
- That they will sometimes need to work very hard, for no reward at all.
- That they will lose sometimes. And that it will sting.
- That people may not like them sometimes and there’s not a thing they can do about it.
- That life is not fair.
- How money really works. And how much work is involved to get it, keep it and save it well.
- The concept of sarcasm.
- That driving them around is not my actual job.
- That I think board games are kind of boring.
- That their tooth fairy pays less than the going rate. And that not all Santa’s limit the gifting to three gifts or so, give or take a coloring book.
I just want to make sure I cover the important stuff, you know? I don’t want to show up at my thirty-year old son’s apartment one day and discover he can’t tie his shoes or brush his own teeth. Or learn that my daughter never understood the concept of laundry because folded clothes have always magically appeared before her.
It’s a lucky, fortunate thing to be able to give so much to our children. I just want to make sure I’m giving them the right things. You understand, don’t you?