Make Good Choices
It started out as a joke – of sorts. I would loudly exclaim “Make good choices!” as I would drop her off somewhere, or as she left the house, ensuring all her friends heard me.
Yeah, it was embarrassing in the beginning, but my daughter ultimately embraced it. Often before I could get the words out, she’d turn back to me and say “Yeah, I know. Make good choices. I’m on it.”
Over time, it became our little joke with a wink and a nod. She’s taken to telling me to make good choices when I’m heading out, too. Make good choices. It’s just a thing, right?
It was just a thing until she’s becoming more of an adult – more the age I was when I didn’t make good choices. Now, more than ever,
those choices are important.
The Same Mistakes
I sure wasn’t perfect. I did make some mistakes; I made not-good choices as a teenager. The usual: smoking, alcohol, sex, socks with sandals. OK, not that last one.
I’ve had the talks with my daughter, but ultimately, I know some things are learned from experience. We can tell our kids drugs are bad until we’re blue in the face, but they’re statistically still likely try something at some point. They’ll learn from it, just like we did, and we can hope it isn’t a life-long burden.
All mistakes teach a lesson – if you’re willing to look for it. But, it seems, I’m hyperfocused on my daughter not making that one “mistake I made” – that BIG one mistake.
For me, I don’t want my daughter to be a teenage parent. She’s made it past the age her mother got pregnant, but as she approaches the age I was when she was conceived, I can’t help but wonder if I’ve had enough talks with her. Each time I say “Make good choices,” I can’t help but want to add “…and by that I mean don’t get pregnant, OK?”
At this age, though, how much does that old paradigm ring true? Is it still the more you tell them not to do something, the more they want to do it?
It turns out, there is no “enough” times. What it really boils down to is being a good example.
Enough is not taking a drag of a cigarette while you’re telling them not to smoke. It’s not cracking a beer open when you tell them the demons of alcohol. It’s not leaving a box of condoms out in the open…
Wait! It IS leaving a box of condoms out!
Crap. Which is it?
Our Good Choices
As our kids “come of age” to start making these choices in their own life, it seems even more imperative that we back up our talks when they were younger with our own actions, now. It’s really hard for us to believe someone telling us not to do something when we see them doing it, right?
What’s the first thing you think when a Police Officer passes you on the highway at a good 20 clicks over the speed limit, then exits without a turn signal?
The same goes for our kids.
The “do what I say, not what I do” times are over. They’re paying attention… and here’s the catch. They’re no longer trying to be like us. They’re looking for excuses to justify behavior that’s either easier or “cooler” for them.
Getting Through to Them
I think there’s a way to keep us from sitting up at night creating impossible scenarios where our children are doing amazingly stupid things; things so stupid they’re found on the Internet, while not being so overbearing.
It comes in the form of honesty and humility – in talking to them like they’re an individual and not just your child.
- Tell them it was a mistake.
- Tell them you made it.
- Tell them, you regret it.
For those of us where our “mistake” was naively marrying the wrong person or having a child too young, we can’t forget to remind them that they’re a beautiful and important part of our lives, but that the decision we made created head – and heart – ache.
It’s Always Something
At a conference a few weeks ago, a presenter began with the same story I started this article with. “I used to tell my daughter to make good choices…” I couldn’t help but howl! There was another parent, exactly like me.
Then I realized, this is a universal parenting thing: we just don’t want our kids to “make the same mistakes” we did. In fact, we don’t want them to make mistakes at all. But, honestly, we made mistakes… and we turned out fine, right?
Oh… OK… yeah, I see why we do it.
I was eating out the other day with my daughter and there was a baby wailing away at the table across from us. The parents were doing their best to coddle the child until the bill came, but it was causing a bit of a scene.
My daughter looked at me and said “I so don’t ever want kids. I just don’t like babies. They’re like little… little… buttballs.”
I have no idea what a “buttball” is, but I’m happy as a clam that having a kid isn’t on her radar!
It doesn’t stop me from wondering if I talked to her enough about safe sex. Maybe one more conversation…
Sigh… maybe not. It’s her choice, now.
Making good choices,
Now, you can follow my shenanigans on Twitter.