Mr. Sensitive

January 26, 2012

Learning From Parents’ Mistakes

Filed under: Uncategorized — lbej @ 08:49

The easiest way for me to teach my children how to behave is to point out to them how clever and prudent I am to behave the way I already do–for example, how can you need a cell phone, Jenny, when I don’t even use one?  This method is convenient (I am already demonstrating the behavior I want to demonstrate) and it allows me to bask in the glow of my children’s awe and admiration (never mind that what they respect is my power over them, not my genius in the field of home economics).  But note that I said easiest, not best.  It’s much harder for children to learn from their parents’ mistakes.  This is not to say that my children don’t think I make mistakes–they do, Reagan’s denials not withstanding–but the mistakes they think I make are all about them.  I don’t have to tell Jenny that I’m messing up by making her eat something other than fries and ranch dressing for dinner–she already knows I’m wrong.  I don’t have to tell Brinky that I’m out of line in forcing him to wear pants–he was born knowing that pants are for clowns.  What they don’t know, and what I can’t explain meaningfully even when I know myself, is what I have done badly and will do badly in my own life.  Alas, that’s the thing I really want them to understand.  What I can force them to learn–how to behave as  children–won’t necessarily apply once they aren’t children. A thirty-year-old Brinkley will, presumably, not want to eat thumbtacks.  I’ve tried to learn from my parents’ mistakes, lesson number one being don’t die like a fool.  Thus I don’t ignore unexplained chest pains (Dad) or sit in my kitchen all day eating Wheat Thins, watching Law & Order, and playing Sudoku (Mom).  What will my children learn?  Besides the obvious (don’t drink, kids), it’s hard for me to say.  In fact, it’s probably none of my business to say–it’s for them to decide.

What made me think about this?  Brinky is learning early.  He hears me complain all the time about having to tithe to the dentist, and he’s made the commitment to take care of his six teeth.  This morning I watched him spend a solid fifteen minutes sitting in the family room, watching Dora and flossing.  Don’t believe me?



  1. Oh, Brinky. He loves some dental floss.

    The kids will learn awesome things from you because you’re awesome.

    Comment by euregirlsandboys — January 26, 2012 @ 09:14 | Reply

    • I’d prefer they learn terrible things from me and discover awesome things for themselves. That’s probably asking for too much.

      Comment by lbej — January 26, 2012 @ 09:36 | Reply

  2. Um, that picture is the best picture? Also, Dad’s biggest mistakes were dying young and wearing pants that were too small, maybe not in that order. Mom’s biggest mistakes were all of her decisions.

    I really like reading about you guys and Brinkey, by the way. It’s sweet, and it makes me excited that one day I might have kids.

    Comment by Marcus — January 27, 2012 @ 19:49 | Reply

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