Friday, February 9, 2018

Life Skills and How to Teach Them

I love my children. I really do. And I think they're incredibly smart (my oldest child thinks I'm deluded and therefore my expectations for them are too high but that's another post entirely). But sometimes I do wonder if we've failed them, especially on the life skills front. Because, you see, my children are mostly not children anymore. Two of them are even official adults in the eyes of the law (not that I hope the law is anywhere close to making their acquaintance any time soon--or ever). By now they should have some life skills and common sense, right? Some of the stuff we had to know to be properly launched in the world don't even make it onto the radar of kids growing up today. They barely have to balance a checkbook and they certainly don't even have to know how to write a check. Pro tip though: if you pay a lot of money at one time for a child's activities, make that child write out that check for you so they can see the staggering amount you pay. Little buggers need to know how expensive they are. This also helps when you start giving them the I don't want to be a grandmother anytime soon and you can't afford a baby anyway talk. Another pro tip: give them this talk often, until no one is embarrassed by the subject anymore and even if you think there's no way that junior or juniorette are doing any of that anyway. (Although if your child is approaching 30 or older, you can probably stop telling them you're too young to be a grandmother.) Back to the topic at hand though: life skills.

I don't remember being taught life skills. They just seemed to come, right? I mean, when someone clipped the back corner of my dad's car and took the finish off of it, no one had to tell me that a little black Sharpie marker topped with clear nail polish was just as effective as a professional fix. (It's not, but it did delay the inevitable noticing of the boo-boo, for which I honestly wasn't at fault.) No one taught my sister that she should eat all of the ice cream but leave the empty carton in the freezer so that her sneaky little feast wasn't noticed immediately. (Leaving the spoon in the empty carton so that the spoons were missed sooner rather than later might have been a bridge too far though.) We just intuited these important skills. OK, all kidding aside and despite making us seem like underhanded little sneaks, I am only half joking about the fact that we seemed to pick up on things faster than my children do and I don't know why. It's not because my kids are dumb (at least not according to me; see above). Is it just that they're unobservant or have had too much done for them? If you know me, you know the latter isn't true given my fondness for telling my children I only had them to carry in my groceries, take the dog outside, load the dishwasher, etc.  So what gives?

Just so you know what I'm up against, in the last couple of weeks I was present for life skills fails for both of my sons (I'm sure my daughter has had equally boneheaded moments, just not in my presence lately). I was driving with T. He's almost 16 and wants to get in the hours he needs in order to get his driver's license. As we were sitting in the car, he looked down at the gauges and told me that the car needed gas. I asked if the gas light was on and despite the fact that it wasn't and I knew for a fact we were completely fine on gas, I directed him to a gas station. Pumping gas for the first time, no time like the present, right? We pulled in and I handed him the credit card. I gave him no further instructions. I didn't even think about it. I mean, the gas pumps walk you through the whole thing these days so I assumed he'd be fine. You know what they say about assuming, right? It makes an ass out of you and me. And clearly real men don't read directions and all that and T. is nothing if not a real man. First he tried to pump the gas without paying first despite the screen clearly telling him to pay at the pump or pay inside before pumping gas.  ::sigh::  Once I had him hang the nozzle back up and start over, I thought we were in the clear. Imagine my surprise when he poked his head back into the car to ask, "When they say zip code, do they mean *our* zip code?" All I can say is that it's a good thing that I have a couple more years with this child to try and teach him how to live on the same planet the rest of us do.

But he's not the only clueless wonder in the family. Nope. Just a few days later, I agreed to take his older brother W. shopping to get some nice clothes for an upcoming wedding. It is important to note that W. is old enough to be invited to weddings that do not include the rest of the family. In other words, he's officially a grown ass adult. OK, a grown ass adult whose mommy still buys him clothes but college kids are perpetually broke and you don't even want to see what he'd choose himself (athletic shorts are unlikely to be wedding dress code at all but the most eccentric weddings). So his girlfriend and I took him shopping. He's not fun to shop with (neither am I, if I'm being honest, but this isn't about me) and I was hoping T.'s presence would keep him from being so darn grumpy. We loaded him up with pants that he needed to try on and kept browsing as he went off to the dressing room. He not only came over to us to show us the pants but he felt the need to chat and make goo goo eyes at T. for a rather extended period of time. I finally shooed him back to the dressing room but he immediately returned looking panicked. "Mom, everything's gone from my dressing room. All the pants you wanted me to try on. Even my pants are gone!" Yes, child had been out of the dressing room for so long that one of the store's workers had repossessed everything, including the jeans he had been wearing. He had no clue how to go about finding his jeans, never mind the rest of the pants to try on.  T. and I both might have snickered a bit. It seems to me that he should have had at least an inkling of what to do in this admittedly ridiculous situation though. Side note: what do you think they were planning on doing with the obviously well worn and hangerless jeans that didn't belong in the store? Unlike with his younger brother, I don't have years left to instill a life skill or two in him before setting him free. This one has already fledged. Sorry world!

So clearly I stink at preparing my children for adulting. I just don't know how they've failed to pick all of this basic stuff up. I mean, when I forgot which level of the parking garage I parked on the other day, I rode up and down the elevator, leaning out and looking for my car at every stop.  Floor 4, floor 3, floor 5.  And oh look, there's my car.  Problem solving life skill, right? Ok, so it might be genetic. ;-P

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