They Aren’t Listening But They Are Certainly Watching

I spend many days agonizing over the fact that my kids don’t seem to be listening to me.

I utter the same-old phrases all of the time:

“Every light in the house is on!”  

“Please, everyone, flush the toilet when you’re done!”

“If I have to say not to pick your baby sister up again, I’m going to freak out!”

On these days, I feel like a recorder on an endless loop of demands starting with, “I told you…”

When I am lucky enough to see a break-through, I try to take it in.  Over the weekend, a hand-written list hung on the refrigerator proved to me that even if my kids aren’t acting like it, they are learning from us.

I didn’t think much of my 8 year-old son, Lynden, securing the tattered notebook paper to the fridge door.  My son is a classic teacher’s pet type so I figured he was admiring his student of the quarter award or auditing the free pizza vouchers he earned throughout the school year for reading.

It was not until he announced that, he was “going outside to do a triathlon” that I thought to take a look at the paper he hung up.

The note was a detailed list of daily activities – starting with waking up and listing some sort of athletic training in thirty minute increments until 3 p.m. (at which time he penned: “I’m done”).

My son, Lynden (age 8) made this list of daily summer "to-do's" (July, 2016)

My son, Lynden (age 8) made this list of daily summer “to-do’s” (July, 2016)

As I watched his triathlon taking place on the cul-de-sac in the front of the house, the note struck me as more than cute, kid-art.

Lynden was actually committed to the schedule – at least to the idea that daily physical activity was a must.  Not only that, but his little sister joined him in the blinding sun and the oppressive Florida heat.

When Lynden cut through the living room to head toward the pool in back, my Good-Bad Dad mind was consumed by the realization that he was modeling the training my wife does each day (at least in part – no “Winter Wipe-Out” or “Fight Yosef” in her routine).

As impressed as I was with the mini-triathlon transition taking place in my house, in typical GBD fashion, I began to think about the other lessons my kids were taking in – specifically, those less commendable being learned from me.

If I was more aware of my kids modeling my behavior, I could certainly make better choices in front of them.

Sure, I’m a good example most of the time, but could think of several circumstances where I could be better:

-I would try to be nicer to the family dog when he yips to go outside (usually at the same time my infant daughter blows out of a diaper).

-I should be slower to raise my voice when my 3 year-old doesn’t quite make it to the potty in time and yells, “I’m sorry, Dad!”

-I could stand to permanently eliminate the phrase, “please don’t tell your Mom” from my vocabulary.

-When my wife leaves town and our normal menu gives way to hot-dogs and ice cream, I should feel uncomfortable that I’ve fed my children such junk.

I’m realizing that I’m watching more than imitation – by seeing what they are learning from me, I’m more accountable and self-aware.  That fact can be helpful –whether that be calling me out when my cooking skills too often give way to Chinese takeout or as I reach for my beloved Diet Coke after I’ve pronounced (again) that I’m done drinking soda.

My kids can help me practice what I preach.

So, as Lynden swam laps in the pool, I basked in the glow of admiring his imitation of my wife’s workout regimen.

The recollection of that pride I felt should help soften the blow when Lynden concludes the next midday triathlon by, again, telling me: “Dad, that was hard – now I know why Mom is so much stronger than you.”

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