Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Dear Parents: Never Assume

Dear Parents,
I've had some very hard learning experiences in recent years and months.  I hope you can avoid some of them and the consequences that follow. 
First of all, don't assume your kids feel the same as you did when you were a kid.  My mom said when I was little, I was so obedient, she thought there might be something wrong with me.  I don't really identify with a lot of behaviors that kids exhibit.  There was one time I remember where my mom threw the gingerbread house in the trash can, declaring the candy was too old to eat.  It was sitting on top, so I ate some of it.  I had been drooling over that candy for weeks and to be told I couldn't have any?  Never!
What I don't understand is the latest situation with my daughter.  After our move last year, our dental visits were a little delayed and I was probably doing a terrible job nagging my kids about their teeth as we were packing and I was dealing with frequent contractions.  I was so heartbroken to learn that my daughter had a major cavity.  The dentist filled it and said we would need to watch it because it was pretty deep.  It could develop problems later.
One evening I asked my daughter if she brushed her teeth and she said she had.  I said, "Come here and let me smell your breath."  She said, "I was just joking."  Of course, I explained that a "joke" isn't when you lie to your mom to get out of doing something.  Apparently her filling wasn't traumatic enough an experience for her and I continued to tell her night and day to brush her teeth.
Just a couple months later, there was what appeared to be a blister on her gums right next to the tooth that had been filled.  As I suspected, it was infected.  The dentist said it would have to be pulled and a spacer put in its place to leave room for her adult tooth.  She was extremely nervous about having it extracted and silly me, I thought she would get serious about taking care of her teeth after this.
Now that we have a baby, it has made it harder to keep tabs on my other kids, especially with stairs in our new house.  When my daughter would run upstairs to "brush her teeth", I believed her.  The water was running and everything.  Then one morning I suddenly felt like I should say again, "Come here and let me smell your breath."  She frowned, acted like she went up to do it again, and sulked all the way to the bus stop.  She finally told me she hadn't seen her bubble gum toothpaste since she went to Grandma's house.  I said, "Are you telling me you haven't brushed your teeth since Grandma's house?!  That was two weeks ago!!!!"  Her silence was her answer.  Oh my gosh. 
I'm not just baffled by how she could lie to me, but how can she tolerate the feeling of her teeth not being clean?  I remember being about age 4 when I couldn't stand to go a day without brushing my teeth.
It doesn't matter that I've talked to her many, many times about losing teeth and that she actually had to have one removed.  Her bottom line is that she doesn't like brushing her teeth, so now no matter what I'm doing, I have to follow her upstairs and watch her do it or do it for her.
Last year one of my sons put on a pretty convincing act that he was getting his homework completed, but his grades showed otherwise.  It turned out he had never learned how to access his email at home that was needed in order to log in to Google Classroom where his assignments were.  Why didn't he tell me or his teacher?  I don't know, but I do know he cares about his grades.  He frequently cries about them.
Apply these things to many situations.  Have you talked to your kids about pornography until you are just sure they get it?  Think they would never look at it?  Think you can leave the house without logging off?  Think again.  Just because you explained doesn't mean they understand or that they won't be curious. 
Never assume, "My child would never do that."  I have been shocked quite a few times that one of my children has done something I didn't think they were capable of.  I'm sure we would all love to trust our children, but they are capable of more than we realize sometimes.  Thank goodness for baby teeth because my daughter might learn her lesson by the time her adult teeth come in, but what if I fail my children when it comes to more serious issues?
This isn't meant to be negative, but we all make mistakes and we need to remember that so will our children.  They will make the same mistakes repeatedly, just like us. 
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