As parents, we tell our children the same things over and over and over again. “Be nice to your brother.” “Don’t flood the bathroom.” “Quit riding your bike down the stairs.” “Don’t draw on your sister with permanent marker.” You know, the usual. We tell them these things repeatedly in the hopes that one day they will listen. So far, I’m still waiting. At least, with my little ones. But this week I had my eldest daughter give me the same lecture that I had given her just a few days previous. I wish I could say it was nice, but at least it proved she’d been listening.
It all started when she had to write a research paper for her language class. Currently, she is taking a video class, which means that I have not been very involved in her school (a situation which will need to change next year. It helped us survive this year, but I’m not too happy with it.). She picked a topic all by herself. I did at least help her get books from the library, but I didn’t supervise the writing of the paper in any way. Which meant that her topic was WAY too broad. For some reason she understood her teacher to say that she needed to write her outline before she finished reading her books, and she didn’t write her topic sentence until AFTER her outline.
So, yeah. Basically the worst possible way to try to write a research paper, and her paper was pretty awful. And yes, I told her that as I graded it. She was understandably upset (she’s a little bit of a perfectionist, I don’t know where she gets that from) but I also told her that it was partly my fault for not guiding her. And more importantly, I told her that doing things wrong is how we learn to do things right. If we do something right the first time without understanding why it is right, we don’t really learn anything. But if we make a mistake and fail, then we learn from our mistakes and know how to try better the next time. I also sang her a few lines from Disney’s Frozen, just to drive the point home.
Such insightful words I am able to dispense! Tiny pearls of knowledge just dripping from my lips! Sometimes I feel like an ancient guru sitting on top of my mountain, blessing supplicants with my incredible wisdom. Too bad I rarely listen to my own advice.
It was ironically fitting that a few days later I was on the receiving end of that same lecture. Our puppy, Po, is (or should I say “was”?) an almost completely round ball of wooly fluff. He’s adorable. He was also getting hard to comb and the fur around his legs was starting to get matted.
In all my wisdom and perspicacity, I decided that paying $50 to take him to the groomers was poor stewardship. Why pay that kind of money when you could buy a set of dog clippers for $70 and do it yourself? Now, we all know that math is not my strong suit, but even I could calculate the savings! Plus, if I hated clipping him, I only had to try it twice before the clippers paid themselves off and I would be no more out of pocket than if I had taken him to the groomers.
I watched dog grooming videos online. I read dog grooming articles. I looked at pictures of how to properly clip a dog. Looking back, I can see where I went wrong. I was researching dog grooming. I should have been researching how to clip a whirling dervish.
My second mistake was in choosing which length of clipper guard to use. I tried the longest one first, of course, but I didn’t really have the hang of it yet, and jumped to the assumption that it was too long. So, I went two guards shorter. After all, if a number 4 was too long, what was the point of going to a number 3? Yes, now I can see why that was stupid.
Long story short, just like Po’s fur.
In other places it is more medium length. And in a few places it’s still long.
Cute, round, fur ball now looks like he has mange.
My daughters were upset. Even though they had been the ones holding him still (or rather, not holding him still while I yelled at everyone) they felt that it was my fault that he looked awful. After some tears and the growing realization that this was probably what my husband calls a “Four-week haircut” (as in, it will take that long before it grows out enough to look ok), I was feeling very, very blue.
Also, regretful. In hindsight I could easily spot the three or four fallacies in my reasoning that led us to this unhappy moment. I pointed them out again and again in the hopes that somehow I could rewind time and do it all over again.
Which was when my daughter told me that it was ok. She said that clipping Po’s fur well will take practice. Now that we’ve done it poorly, we know how to do it better the next time (Next time!?), and the more we try, the better we will get at it. She told me to quit obsessing over what went wrong and focus on not making the same mistakes in the future. Where did she learn such wisdom? (I’ll be honest, I liked this lecture a whole lot more when I was the one giving it, especially when she sang “Let it Go,” at me.)
But, hey! Bonus points for me that my daughter was listening.
And I really need those parenting points because I’m going to be mortified the first time anyone outside the family sees our dog!
You know that family that shows up to church in the 15 passenger van? The one that homeschools? Ever wondered how they make it through the day or wished you could be a fly on the wall of their house? Well, I'm inviting you in. I'm 36 and I ride herd on 8 children (oldest is 12), 3 cats, 2 bearded dragons, and one puppy. It's loud, chaotic, and imperfect. Welcome to Life in the Big House!