There are always teachable moments. If you read my blog “Don’t Piss Off a Pregnant Woman,” you would know that I have moments where I want to teach people to be nice. Turns out, that doesn’t always work. And then there are teachable moments in the classroom where instructors take the opportunity to enlighten students. 99% of the time, students learn a lot more than we intended, and that is the sole purpose for teachable moments.
But let’s not forget parenting. When you are riding bikes with your toddler and she asks you, “Why is grass green?” that is your chance to enlighten your child because, think about it, it’s not like you are ever going to sit down with your kid and teach her about this subject on your own. This is a teachable moment. You cannot let your child down. LITERALLY, you CAN’T because your child will not let you get away with saying “I don’t know.” Some would go as far as finding a book to give their children the proper information.
But, let me tell you, I had a teachable moment with my 4-yr old son, Ethan, recently and it did not exactly go as planned. My boy’s hair was somewhat long at the time and I wanted to style it like Elvis Presley. What’s the harm in that? Well, my son immediately wanted to know more about Elvis. Within seconds (iPhones are incredible), I showed Ethan this exact picture of Elvis.
And here is how the rest of THAT conversation went:
Ethan looked in the mirror, “So who is he, Mom?”
I smiled and began applying gel to Ethan’s hair, “He was a famous rock star!”
“What’s a rock star Mama?”
“Well, Elvis played music. He played the guitar and sang and danced.”
Ethan smiled, “Does he still play music?”
“Um…no, he does not.”
“Why not Mom?”
I frowned and replied, “Wellllll…he’s not alive anymore.”
Ethan looked up at me in the mirror and asked, “Why?”
I began styling Ethan’s hair, “He fell in his bathroom I think, son. He died.”
His mouth opened wide, “What? WHY?!”
“He put bad things in his body. Sooooo…don’t put bad things in your body hun.”
“What kinda bad things did he put in his body?”
“Bad things like drugs.”
“What are drugs?”
“Drugs are bad things that trick people into feeling better, but it actually makes them sick.”
“Well, it pretty much turns people into zombies. They walk around like that kinda.”
Ethan turned his head toward me, “ZOMBIES?!?! Elvis turned into a zombie?!”
“Yes, so don’t do drugs.”
“Why would he want to do drugs and be a zombie?”
“He was probably unhappy or wanted to feel happy, but it doesn’t make you happy. He didn’t know.”
“I don’t want you to do my hair like Elvis Mom.”
“I understand babe,” I scruffed up Ethan’s hair with my hand and set the brush down.
And so the teachable moment went a little awry because to this day, four months later, Ethan still talks and worries about zombies. Last month, Ethan asked a family friend if he had ever seen a zombie. I couldn’t stop the conversation in time to explain to the family friend that he should say “NO!!!” IT WAS TOO LATE. He told Ethan “Why YES! In fact, I have a friend who is a zombie and he lives down the street from me. Yeah, his name is Bob the Zombie.” “Is he a nice Zombie?” asked Ethan. “Oh yes, Bob is nice. We play checkers and drink coffee together,” my friend confirmed. And Ethan replied, “I don’t like zombies! I’m SCARED of ZOMBIES!!”
Believe me, this family friend backtracked and my entire family worked hard on cleaning up that spill as quickly as possible, reiterating that zombies DO NOT exist. It was our mantra for a week…REALLY: “Zombies are NOT real and they do NOT EXIST.” Say this 100 times and you will start believing they do not exist too.
And guess whose poster is all over the place? Elvis’s. Yep, you don’t notice because you don’t have a kid who knows that Elvis overdosed on drugs in the bathroom because he was an unhappy zombie. So every time we go to Red Robin, a perfectly kid friendly place, we get to see his poster, talk about drugs, and talk about how zombies really do not exist.
It’s really crazy how much kids retain. This leads me to be reminded that we have to be careful what we do and what we say because they soak it up like a Spongebob genius in an ocean of facts, fantasies, good and poor role models, whatever else, and whoever else you surround them with. “Everything I’m doing is being recorded for eternity.” – Gary Vaynerchuk