I guess I’ve been a mom for awhile now, because one of my kids is getting married. While Cassidy’s wedding plans have kept us busy all winter, I think I’m still in denial. Where did my little girl go? I could swear it was just yesterday she went everywhere in her pink dance leotard with a feather boa around her neck, dragging her favorite doll by one arm. Now I have pictures on my phone of her trying on her wedding dress.
Looking through some of my columns from oh so many years ago, I found this one, and thought I’d share.
“Do you have a sandwich?”
My sister, Cindy, was standing in her kitchen talking on the phone (to me), when her 4-year-old, Josh, wandered in. She said he looked around the kitchen, frowned, and asked, “Do you have a sandwich?”
Not, Will you make me a sandwich? but Do you have one? As though she would say, “Why, yes!” and pull one out of her pocket.
We had a good laugh, and wondered whether we’d be successful in teaching our kids about where sandwiches come from; about the value of work, and self-sufficiency.
Cindy wondered, “Does Josh know that I make sandwiches, or does he think I’m just someone in possession of sandwiches?”
There are so many things kids need to learn from their parents. What if we forget to teach them something important? What if little Josh never learns where sandwiches come from? What if he never realizes his mother puts work into making his sandwiches, and she makes them because she loves him?
If he doesn’t learn this at home, he’ll pick up a few ideas at school about sandwiches, probably not the ones his mom would want him to learn. The day may come when he arrives home from school with a dab of jam on his shirt, and his mother says, “I sent you ham and cheese today. Where did the jam come from?” And her son, smiling at the memory, will say, “I traded with Sarah. She had peanut butter and jelly.”
Life may start to look like one big sandwich bar to him, all his for the asking.
That’s when it’s time for The Talk.
“See, honey,” you’ll say, “sandwiches are made in the kitchen. They start with bread.” Maybe get his father involved; it wouldn’t hurt him to remember all that goes into sandwich making.
Then Josh will know, and he will learn the value of a sandwich.
But I digress.
The sheer number of things we need to teach our children is overwhelming. Often I worry that I remembered to teach my first two kids a certain principle, but forgot all about it by the time my other three came along. The older girls know not to run with scissors, but did I remember to tell Megan? Do they all know not to stick their tongues to a frozen flag pole? By the time they leave home will I have managed to teach them how to mop a floor, how credit cards work, and how to say, “I’m not interested” to a telemarketer? Will they all receive adequate reminders to have good posture?
Recently I’ve been quizzing our younger kids on our phone number and address. I always get a little thrill when they get it right. In fact, this morning when Cassidy, 13, wrote our address on a form and I caught a glance at it, I felt myself exhale just a bit that she didn’t make a mistake.
Some things that we want our kids to know are life skills, some are for safety, some are just so they’re not dippy. I went to college with a few people who thought New Mexico was south of the border, and that all sinks have garbage disposals, some just without a switch.
There should really be a checklist, like a chart of recommended vaccinations, or qualifications your child should have before starting kindergarten. A “How To” for preparing smart and responsible citizens, placed in your hand before you convey your newborn home from the hospital. It could be called, “What Your Child Should Know before Being Released from Home,” and be broken down into years.
By their seventh birthdays, for instance, they should know not to light a match when there is flour floating in the air, not to run with lollipops in their mouths, and never to drink bathwater. Also, they should know the three best ways to stop hiccups, legitimate reasons for staying home sick, and why you should not attempt to bathe with your cat.
The list has never been made because it’s endless. There’s just no way we can cover it all. From teaching them what to do when the house fills with smoke to how to play nicely, I just have to hope my kids know enough to take them successfully to adulthood.
And, by all means, I must make sure they learn where sandwiches come from.