Somebody’s Eyes are Watching

By Michael

Pat (not his real name) called for a cab to the airport. He told the cab company there would be five people in the group, even though he and his wife had more than five children. One of his older sons turned to me and scowled.

“He’s always lying like that,” he said.

Ouch. Dad thought he was simply saving a few bucks, but he was also losing his son’s respect. Bad trade. I’m sure other great things about Pat balanced out the lesson he was teaching through a taxi ride, but the incident was a wake-up call for me.

There have been times in my life when I have been, well, um, not 100% perfectly understanding and patient with my wife and children. These absolutely understandable and unavoidable and totally forgivable, simply human lapses on my part seemed like no big deal to me. They were more of a big deal when the girls started mirroring that behavior.

“Where did you learn to treat other people that way?”

“From you, dad. That’s how you talk to __________.”

“That’s different. That’s what grownups do. It’s okay if I do it, but not you. And you’re wrong, I don’t do that. But even if I did, it doesn’t mean you can, because I’m your FATHER and I’m a flaming hypocrite, that’s why.”

Right. Good answer.

Sometimes, it seems to us that the kids aren’t listening, that they really don’t care to hear what we have to say. They are listening, though, and they are learning from us all day long. What they learn isn’t always what we intend, but that’s more our fault than theirs.

In an internet age, it’s smart to remember that there’s always a camera somewhere, ready to capture your most embarrassing moment and share it with the world. Before the internet, parents always had video systems and listening devices tracking them. We called them children.

Sometimes, you get lucky, of course. One evening, Susan was a little bit snotty to the pizza delivery guy. When he left, I gave her a lecture about respecting the work people do to put food on the table and take care of their families. The discussion didn’t go well, or so it seemed.

A few months later, Susan’s sitting with a friend at the kitchen table and the friend starts to mock his father’s job. “Don’t you ever make fun of the way your dad puts food on the table,” Susan says.

In another room, out of sight but within earshot, Susan’s dad does a happy dance.

Michael Rosenbaum is 5 Minutes for Parenting’s first dadblogger. He is a business consultant, playwright and author of Your Name Here: Guide to Life.

Michael blogs on life issues at Your Name Here Guide to Life and manages the Adult Conversation discussion group on Linked-In.

5 Responses to Somebody’s Eyes are Watching
  1. Susan (5 Minutes for Mom)
    November 10, 2009 | 3:56 am

    It is amazing how much kids are listening. I’ll occasionally noticing my 4 yr old say some phrase and then realize that she got that from me.

  2. Blessed
    November 10, 2009 | 6:01 pm

    First I say ouch! Then I say amen!

  3. Carrie
    November 10, 2009 | 8:55 pm

    Ooh, this is so true. My little boy is almost 2, and it kills me when he repeats something I’ve said out of impatience or frustration – even phrases like, “Ho-NEY!” or “no-NO”, when repeated back to me in the same tone I used, can be eye-opening! 🙂

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