Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Sometimes we're wise, sometimes we're not

I was a little older than this when I started reading Dune.
Years ago, my mom asked her children, "What is the point of my having lived through and experienced hard things if you refuse to learn from them?" My mom was/is the sort of person who suffers on behalf of her children, and I've picked up the habit.

My nine-year-old thinks she knows better than me, just as many times, I thought I knew better than my mother. Sometimes my mom was right, and I benefited from her experience.* Other times, I went out of my way to prove that I knew myself better than she knew me. The summer I was eleven, I remember writing home with glee, "Dear Mom, you said that if I couldn't get through The Fellowship of the Ring, I would never get through Dune. Well, you're wrong."

My daughter has noise-canceling headphones to help her deal with over-stimulation at school. She wears them sometimes, but hasn't yet gotten into the habit of wearing them at the times she needs them most. Today, during pick-up I told her this story from my librarian days:

One afternoon, when I was working at the adult reference desk, a man approached me to say that he had tried to send a job inquiry through email, but when he hit "Send," he lost the email. He had had used up his allotted hour of internet time, too. He didn't even ask for help, just stood there and looked at me with shy helplessness. I grabbed a guest code to grant him another hour of computer usage. I said that this was not the usual protocol, but that I wanted him to be able to redo his job inquiry email.

I showed the man the Microsoft Word icon on the desktop of the computer and, "This time, open up a blank Word document, and type out your email there. Then, you can copy and paste it into your email. If your email doesn't send, and you lose that email draft, at least you have the typed-up Word document." I got him set up at the computer, and went to help other patrons.

 At the end of the hour, the man came up to me again. "I tried to send the email again and lost my email," he said.

"Oh, that's frustrating," I said. "Did you type up your email in Word first so that you have a copy?"

"No," he replied.

This interaction happened years ago, and I've forgotten the aftermath. (I suspect the man needed a few hours of computer instruction that was outside the scope of my library shift.) I have always remembered the lesson I learned, though: use the tools I have, and if I know I need help, use the tools others have given me. If I choose not to use the tools others give me, that's my decision, but I need to take responsibility for my choices, regardless.

I learn a lot from my daughter. It's my hope that she learns from me, too. When she makes choices that that goe against her best interests, though, there are times when I need to back off and let her deal with the consequences. 

 *Some adults were wrong so often that, by the time their advice could have mattered, they'd shot their credibility. When those people give me unsolicited advice today, my first reaction is to suspect the opposite is true. It's startling how often that turns out to be the case.


adrienne said...

It's only occurred to me in the last few years that sometimes I still will resist my parents' advice, even when I suspect they're right. It's been nice to kind of relax about that at long last, to be able to really listen to them.

But sometimes they're still wrong. So am I. It's okay.

adrienne said...

P.S. Also, that picture of you is just as adorable as it can be.

tanita davis said...

I still think you could rock long hair.

...just sayin'.

And, I think you're right; Lucia-san is going to have to work this one out for herself. She has the tool in her hand; you cannot concern yourself too much if you, her teacher, and her school knows she has those tools, and she refuses them. It's hard to watch people struggle, but that's how butterflies gain the strength to leave the cocoon, yadda, yadda, yadda. ;)

Saints and Spinners said...

Adrienne: There's the challenge, to listen to the words without the bias of the messenger. And thank you for the kind words about my photo.

Tanita: I think perhaps 4 percent of the photos with me with long hair are nice, and the other 96% reveal the chaos. I suspect that the reason I used to want to be a boy was because I thought boys were free of the obligation of long hair.

"Take care of your needs" has been the rallying cry this year.

Lone Star Ma said...

I love your little girl pictures! Yes, it is so hard sometimes. Just today, I found myself silently chanting: it's my job to provide the food;it's her job to eat it; it's my job to provide the food; it's her job to eat it....about Youngest. Now that Eldest is so close to lift-off, such things seem especially panic-producing.

Jules at 7-Imp said...

I've been trying to back off more and let my girls do more things they can do themselves and experience the consequences -- even if it's something small, like putting peanut butter on their own bread. So often, I'm just being impatient and will do it for them.

So much wisdom in this post, but especially the asterisked (sp?) note. Also, you were adorable then, and you still are.