Teaching Moments

Many years ago I listened to my rabbi talk about Gilligan’s Island and how it could be viewed as a tragedy. It wasn’t tragic because they kept screwing up their attempts to get off of the island. It was tragic because none of the castaways grew. There was no personal growth,each and every one of them exited the island the same person that they were before.

I don’t think that I appreciated or understood what he was saying. In part it was because I took great pride in saying that I was constant and consistent. The Jack you knew then would be the Jack that you would know later. All around me I would hear people talking about how much they were growing and I would roll my eyes. It seemed trendy to declare that you were an unfinished piece of art and some new age professor would teach you how to complete yourself.

After a decade of playing dad I see things very differently. I watch my children carefully and take note of their strengths and weaknesses. During parent/teacher conferences I listen and ask questions. The goal is to give them more support wherever they may need it.

And why do I do this? Because they are growing children who need love, affection and guidance. We want them to grow to be menschen, to be productive members of society. And the only way to do that is to teach them.

So I find myself looking for teaching moments. Earlier today I noticed that a doorknob was loose and needed some adjustment so I made a point of asking my son to help me fix it. I could have done it myself. It would have been faster but I would have missed the opportunity to teach him how to do it. I would have missed the opportunity to give him another experience of working with me and the pleasure of learning to work with his hands.

It was a teaching moment.

Earlier this week he complained that some of his friends have decided not to be friends with another boy that he likes very much. I know all of the boys that are involved in this and saw another teaching moment. I explained to my son that the boy he likes so much has trouble listening and is often in trouble. He has had moments in which he bullied other children and has been sent home from school at least once.

My son nodded his head and then I explained that kids like this child are hard to be friends with. They have a knack for getting into trouble and sometimes you get into trouble by association. I told him that some parents may tell their children that they cannot be friends with a boy like that and that if he still bullies other kids he is not going to have any friends.

My son looked at me with tears in his eyes and told me that part of why he was still friends with him was because he thought that he could help him. I told him that loyalty is an admirable trait and that I was proud of him. And then I told him that I am not sure that his boy is worth it. He doesn’t reciprocate and his past behavior makes me question whether being friends with him is sort of like asking for trouble.

It was another teaching moment.

Sometimes I have a love/hate relationship with these moments. There have been some very difficult discussions that were heart breaking and others that were simply joyous. But I knew the job was dangerous when I took it so…

It is not always easy being a parent, but there is nothing better.

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  1. TheJackB August 28, 2010 at 9:29 pm

    Isn't that our job- to teach them to be menschen. To create individuals who will one day be ready to be independent and productive members of society.

  2. BloggerFather August 28, 2010 at 8:10 pm

    The irony is that with these teaching moments you push your kids to think for themselves and act by themselves–to be independent, slowly getting you and them ready for the time they're on their own.

    I'm many years away, but I thought about that when my boy tried to help me fold laundry today. Every new thing he learns helps him grow, and every new thing brings me closer to letting go.
    My recent post Sugar Milk and Doing the Right Thing

  3. TheJackB August 28, 2010 at 6:37 pm

    The kids teach me something new all the time as well. Sometimes that perspective I lost when I became an adult at 39 is quite helpful.
    My recent post A Guide To Smarter Living Or He Did it Better

  4. Andrea August 28, 2010 at 2:20 am

    This is an excellent post! I'm sorry it took CK's link to get me over here. There is a huge lesson to be learned everyday with our children if we just look for it. I try to remember that I'm not the only one who has something to teach either.
    My recent post Double Post Friday

  5. TheJackB August 23, 2010 at 7:10 pm

    It is a constant juggling act. The dance in which you try to determine whether to lead or follow never ends.
    My recent post A Guide To Smarter Living Or He Did it Better

  6. Rose August 22, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    Knowing when to step in and knowing when to let them learn on their own is never easy. I think you did the right thing.
    My recent post The Switch- Not a chick flick

  7. Keith Wilcox August 21, 2010 at 5:05 pm

    You're right. Teaching moments like these are tough. You don't want to tell your kid he's created a friendship for all the wrong reasons, but you also don't want to see him get hurt if that kids decides to turn on him. Is it a time to let him find out the hard way about human nature or is it better to protect him from it? I don't know what I'd do. But, one thing is sure, your kid has a big heart. That's great!
    My recent post Coloring Sheets 7

  8. TheJackB August 20, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    It is good to know that they're paying attention. Sometimes it makes me laugh to hear myself say some of these things. It is not just because I sound like I am channeling my father, but because I sound so freaking old.

    What the hell do I know about life, apparently enough to fool these kids.
    My recent post For the Love of the Game and Learning How To Get Along

  9. TheJackB August 20, 2010 at 8:15 pm

    I suspect that you catch them with great regularity.

  10. CK_Lunchbox August 20, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    Everyone's writing super inspiring posts today and this one is tops. Sounds like those teaching moments are having their intended affect reading about your son. Sometimes for me it doesn't feel like they sink in with the kids, but then out of the blue they do something that tells me otherwise. It's like all the little moments added up in their conscious.

    With only having the boys for the short time, I tried to jam in as many of these as I could with them. So many that on one occasion, when I asked my to do something he blurts out, "Is this another one of those life lessons?" At least he's paying attention.

    Great post.

  11. johncaveosborne August 20, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    nice work, my friend. teaching moments are key. gotta remember to keep my eyes open for them…

  12. johncaveosborne August 20, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    very, very solid. i love teaching moments. thanks for reminding me to keep my eyes open for them…
    My recent post My Interview With Lovie

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