Parenting lesson #35: We’re all hypocrites.


“Mom, where’s the whoop cream? I can’t find it!” rang out as the bathroom door swung open.

The voice in my head responded with, “Whyyyyyyy? Didn’t I JUST tell you I was going to use the bathroom and then come to the kitchen? You couldn’t wait another 30 seconds?”

But out of my mouth came, “Sweetie, it’s there, I’ll help you in just a minute.”

Hundreds of similar questions have rung out as my children have barged into the bathroom over the years. “I can’t find XYZ” is a top offense. So are interruptions about so-and-so not doing such-and-such, along with requests for screen time, food, candy and any other thing they think I might acquiesce to simply because I’m indisposed and want them to go away quickly.

This time, though, the real issue for me was not the interruption itself. Nor was it my impatient child. The real frustration in that moment was my befuddlement at why my son couldn’t see the “whoop cream.” It was in PLAIN SIGHT on the fridge shelf exactly where I had explained it would be.

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Years ago, a friend of mine gave me a “pat the bunny” parody book called “pat the husband.” One of the pages details how the husband thinks there is a conspiracy to hide things from him. Then it instructs you to help him find the ketchup in the refrigerator, which is in plain view but also slightly hidden by the milk. I couldn’t help but wonder, “Is there more to this? Is there science to males not being able to see things that are clearly in front of them?”

The journalist in me took over and I was overcome by an insatiable need to find research that supported my theory. I wanted hard facts and was willing to go eight pages deep in Google search results to find what I knew had to be out there somewhere. My hypothesis: women can see things better than men can. If I had a nickel for every time I told a male in my household exactly where to find something, was told “It’s not there, I looked,” only to physically point out that it was indeed right where I said it would be, I’d … well, I’d probably have a dollar. Maybe even two.

My research validated my feelings rather quickly. It turns out that this has been studied, and *generally speaking* there is some evidence to back up that men can see movement at a distance better than women, while women can differentiate colors and items right in front of them better than men can.

Armed with my new evidence, I had every intention of sitting down and writing this blog post to prove my point, not necessarily to win, per se (which I love to do), but to help us all grow as parents who need to better understand that maybe our boys simply can’t see the things that are so obviously right in front of them.

A few hours after the “whoop cream” incident, it was I who couldn’t find something. I can’t even remember what it was because that’s what our memories do for us when we’re the ones in the wrong – they make our memories fuzzy. But what it was doesn’t matter much. I asked Zach to look for it for me because I was in a rush. And within seconds, he calmly said, “Mom, it’s right here.” And he pointed at it.

Right where I had already looked.

After a brief moment of us looking at each other and realizing what had just taken place, Zach laughed. I laughed. His ability to laugh with me instead of chastise me or point out the obvious was sheer beauty. But for me, there was another voice in my head that spoke gently. “This changes the blog post, doesn’t it?”

We are all hypocrites sometimes. My high horse slipped and I crashed to the ground, imagining myself covered in sweet, fluffy “whoop cream.” And it is in this place where you learn there is possibly nothing more humbling in life than parenting.

Parenting lesson #34: You are an expert in everything, and when you’re not, you’ll make stuff up.


Photo credit Carl Donohue

When you become a parent, you don’t realize you know all that you know until your kids start to do really unintelligent things and you have to teach them how to stay alive. It starts really young, as is evidenced by all the child-proofing we do to keep our infants from sticking their tiny fingers or other conductors into electrical sockets.

And once they can talk, our kids ask questions constantly, so we feel obligated to answer them. Some days, we can pat ourselves on the back for a job well done, amazed at all we were able to explain to our curious little humans. Gold stars all around.

Some days, we make stuff up.

And some days, we simply make up stuff. We do it to end the conversation, we do it because we’re afraid to not have all the answers, we do it to be funny, or we do it to prove a point, like I did last week. It began with the basic knowledge that leaving the lights on when they’re not in use wastes precious energy, costs money and compounds our global CO2 emissions issues. Despite sharing this knowledge with our kids at least 89 times (and knowledge IS power, right?), the information doesn’t seem to motivate action. This is when we as parents start to get creative.

I went upstairs to shut off the lights that I knew were inevitably left on by some children. Sure enough, two kids’ rooms had lights that were on, as well as the playroom, bathroom, and hall light. As I muttered to myself under my breath, “How many times do I have to tell them to turn their stinking lights off,” I headed back downstairs and began stage one of the lecture: the empty threat.

I’m going to make you pay.

“Guys, I just went upstairs and found your lights on aga– OH. MY. GOSH. I turned off that light before I went upstairs and it’s on AGAIN. Go turn it off! I’m going to start deducting a dollar from your bank account every single time I know you left on a light.” There it is. The mostly empty threat, because there’s NO WAY with all the other parenting responsibilities tied to getting in and out of the house that I’ll remember to do this in the moment. (Also, I’d like to point out that Greg is so tech savvy, he has trained Alexa to turn off all the lights in the house. But she’s only about 79% accurate.)

The second part of the lecture escalated pretty quickly into make stuff up territory:

“You know that leaving the lights on is killing the polar bears, right? I just want you to think that every time you leave a light on, you just killed a polar bear. Because that’s essentially what you’re doing. Stop killing the polar bears!!”

You just killed a polar bear.

Admittedly, it’s not the first time I’ve conjured images of cute little bears to try to get them to do something. The thing is, we will often try almost anything to get our kids to take our lessons to heart. We cajole, bribe, reward, manipulate, discipline, do-over, punish, threaten … am I missing anything? And when one method fails, we try another, and another, then another. The morning after the polar bear incident, I don’t think anyone left on any lights. It’s a small victory, but I’ll take it. And a few days later, my two oldest were brushing their teeth at the same time and one said to the other, “Stop killing the polar bears! You don’t need to turn on BOTH bathroom lights just to brush your teeth!” It warmed my heart. But this morning, after getting home, I found a bedroom light on. So often, change and habits need way more time than we want to give to materialize.

It is important to realize when to let things go as a parent. I have a lot to learn in this area, I’ll admit. But turning off the lights is important to me for many reasons. So when it’s important, those are the times we keep trying until something sticks. I also sometimes ask the the kids to come up with the solution – and it’s amazing how creative they can be! I actually told them I thought we could make it a family affair, and if the kids catch Greg or me leaving on a light, they could all have 10 minutes of screen time during the week. I think that has great promise.

When it’s important, we keep trying.

Or maybe next I’ll try heeding my own advice and have the kids practice turning off the lights when leaving a room 21 times in a row. But while that experiment worked for a brief period, I have to confess that it wore off quickly and shoes don’t usually make their ways into their baskets anymore. So I’m back to lecturing about shoes. Lights, shoes, doing homework, turning in homework, wet towels on the floor … I’m starting to feel like a professor with all the lectures I give. But I’m definitely mom. Just a mom who knows a little about a lot and when I don’t, I should probably learn to keep my mouth shut — or the boogey man might get me.