Friday, May 10, 2013

Things I would really like my children to learn

How to use the plunger

Look, sometimes in the course of routine toilet operation, you're going to get a back-up. And that's OK.

Maybe you overestimated the amount of paper the toilet could accommodate in a single flush. Maybe your little brother shoved a stuffed animal down there. Maybe you ate four Big Macs for lunch. Whatever the reason, it happens to the best of us and we're not going to fault you for it.

However, being absolved of blame does not mean you are absolved of responsibility. You must work to clear the blockage. It's your sworn duty as a member of this household to grab the plunger and try to force through whatever is backing up the toilet.

If you need help in learning proper plunging procedures, ask. I will gladly help you. Just don't walk away and leave it for someone else to deal with.

Also, as a side note, don't think I didn't giggle two paragraphs ago when I used the word "duty" in this context.

The practical advantages of telling the truth

Yes, lying to your parents is morally wrong. That alone should be reason enough not to do it.

But there's also this: Telling the truth is going to save you from having to incur even worse punishment.

You know how your mother always tells you to just admit it when you screw up because lying about it will get you into exponentially deeper trouble? She's not kidding about that.

And you and I both know she'll eventually figure out you're not telling the truth. You can almost certainly fool me, but that's only because I'm clueless. Your mom? She knows, man. She just knows.

The value of showing up

Here's one of these little life secrets that I, as the parent, am supposed to impart to you:

A surprising percentage of life success comes from simply being where you're supposed to be when you're supposed to be there. Seriously, you won't believe the rewards for just showing up.

Whether it's work or school or a family commitment, show up. There are two advantages to this:

(1) People will be impressed, which means they will be more likely to give you the things you want.

(2) If you're dreading a meeting you have scheduled or you just don't feel like working on a particular day, showing up and getting started will go a long way. Problem situations are never as bad as they seem once you turn up and start tackling them head-on.

Trust me on this. Just show up.

If people want to mix ketchup and mustard, that's OK

And by that I mean this: As you venture out into the world on your own, you're going to encounter a wide range of people whose life experiences and individual tastes differ greatly from your own. These people will say and do things that are utterly unfamiliar to you.

Which should be totally fine, as far as you're concerned. Do not dismiss them out of hand simply because they're not like you.

That's not to say I don't want you to make moral judgment calls. We've tried our best to teach you right from wrong, and I'm confident you can (and will) tell the difference.

But don't assume your way is the only way. Consider other perspectives. Respect them. Don't be willfully blind to ways to build a better mousetrap.

In other words, even if you yourself would never mix ketchup and mustard on a hot dog, it doesn't mean others won't. And it doesn't mean there's anything wrong with it.

(I do it myself occasionally. And I'm only semi-ashamed to admit it tastes great.)

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