Lately, Tiff and I have been extra careful about our words and how we use them around our kids, especially around our three year old (a.k.a. little miss SpongeBob). Even what we watch on television can sometimes affect our children's perception of what could be deemed as "okay". The other day I was driving home while picking up Austin from his girlfriend's house (her parents are always home) and pull into the driveway to see my brother, one of his girlfriends, and my neighbor sitting outside the house talking and smoking. Now, let me open a parenthesis here and say (that my 27 year old brother lives with me in a side efficiency while sometimes having some sketchy characters come over from time to time...but that's for another blog post). Austin and I get out of the car and he decides to say hi and begins talking to the "three amigos". When suddenly, the girl begins to comment on Austin's looks while using words that were meant to flatter but were highly inappropriate.
Probably too upset to say anything at the moment, I decided to go inside the house and texted Austin to come in immediately. When he came inside he asked me, "Dad why did you want me to come inside?" I looked at him and replied, "because I don't want you hanging around that trash". Now, I don't know what's worse, saying something you wish you hadn't, or saying nothing and wishing you had.
Now, we as parents can become so guarded with our children that we forget sometimes that we're not raising a child, we're raising an adult. I know, at least intellectually, that my kids need to develop a sense of freedom and independence while exploring different relationships but, there's something I think in every parent that will always resist that. Austin then patted me on the shoulder and with condescending approval said, "okay"...as if he had perceived something new about his father. Well, after marinating in stupidity for about five minutes, I went to his room and apologized and explained that what I said was definitely out of character. It bothered him that I would label a family member as rubbish. And after much dialogue I discovered that because there was something about himself that identifies with the people outside the house that night, when I called them trash...I was in effect calling him trash.
Sometimes the ones we're trying to parent will tell us what they need to hear from us most. Hidden in the nuances of the day, in their body language, in their interactions with others, in their questions, in their stories, in their conversations, in their messages to friends, etc.. Let's make sure what gets remembered is worth repeating and speaks to the needs our kids are subtly lettings us know they have. As for me, a little soul searching is in order as to why I said what I said. Like my father always told me, "out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks".