Teaching Our Children to Fish

Annah ElizabethUncategorized9 Comments

I’ve always called a spade a spade.A vagina a vagina.

And a penis a penis.

This morning I stumbled across a mother’s forum where a woman asks for pet names to call her children’s privates. She states that she always felt awkward when her mom used the word vagina, and she didn’t want to put her daughter through that discomfort.

Oh, my poor, poor children. When one of my teens expressed concerns about drinking after me, I joked that “I pushed you out of my body between my loins, and you’re worried about my germs?”

Fortunately, it didn’t backfire, and it has become a longstanding bit of family humor, but that wouldn’t have been the case had I been afraid to talk about everything—from body parts to sex—with the fruits of my labor.

As embarrassing as my children might have found this dialogue when they were growing up, at least I know, as they go away to college, that they won’t be confusing the campus nurse by telling her something is wrong with their twinky or winky

Heck, forget the school staff—I won’t be confused when they come to me to discuss delicate issues.

But will they come to me? I have wondered, as the teenage pulling-away years have progressed.

Have I been successful in teaching them to be independent, yet know that I am always here if they need me?

Will they feel comfortable enough, safe enough, to come to me as they mature into the men and women they will be?

I love this piece, one where a mother reflects on whether or not she taught her son how to properly boil an egg, if she properly prepared him for the real world.

“I can give you the fish, or I can teach you to fish,” someone responds to her son.

I know I taught my children how to keep a house clean.

Our Family Guide to a Happy, Healthy Home
The HHH Schedule—acronym for Happy, Healthy Home—on my fridge is proof that my children can take care of their animals, run a vacuum, sweep floors, dust furniture, scrub toilets and sinks, and do laundry.
(The operative word being can…)
Why, my daughter begged me when she was four years old to assign her Bathroom Duty.
I worried about the harsh chemicals, so I made her wait until she was six.
She was elated to finally be able to do something her big brother had been doing.
For a while. Until she came to understand the meaning of the word chore.
My children also know their way around a kitchen, how to wash dishes, and where all of the gadgets and gizmos go.
My daughter began making some mean chocolate chip pancakes when she was about eleven.
My youngest boy made us some pretty tasty scrambled eggs when he was about twelve.
And my oldest boy? Well, I might have taught him to boil water, but his sister is the one who taught him how to make boxed mac ‘n cheese.
As the story goes, her brother enlisted her help one day when his meal wasn’t quite working out.
Evidently he’d just filled a pot with water and dumped all of the ingredients in at once…
Two years ago that boy went away to a college with no dorms and no dining halls, twenty-four hours from home.
And he took the fishing pole Warren had given him, one of the ones he and his siblings used on their many outings with Daddy.
When Fave Son left, the two of us were experiencing that awful tearing-away-from-Mom, I-don’t-never-will-need-you-again phase.
Sometimes, when his silence and seemingly snobbish ways threatened to bring me to tears, I would recall the conversation with our nurse practitioner: “My husband used to say to me, ‘You taught them to be independent. You can’t take it all back now.’ ”
Apparently what we hadn’t taught him in the way of taking care of himself he learned by using all of the other life skills we’d provided him with.
He not only hasn’t starved to death, he’s quite fit.
And he’s not only outgrown much of that pulling away phase, he’s recently solicited my advice on topics ranging from…well, personal to private…
One down.
Two to go.
We took our daughter to college two weeks ago.
She, too, took her fishing pole, the travel-sized one her little brother bought for her, just before she moved away.
I felt a twinge of sadness as I stood in front of the grocery cooler and realized I no longer need to purchase skim milk.
I miss my “Good morning, Beauty,” ritual.
I miss her warm smile, the one that melts your heart and lights up a room.
I miss her complaining about people being gossipy and girls being mean.
I miss her closed bedroom door, the one we threatened numerous times to remove from its hinges if she didn’t come out of her cave from time to time.
I miss the lilt in her voice, the one she has when she wants to talk to me about something she knows I might not like.
Was I aware of my own strengths earlier enough in her life to model some modicum of self assurance?
Have I taught her right?
Have I taught her enough?
Will she, too, someday come to me, to discuss everything from the personal to her privates, and to feel confident enough to call a spade a spade…

9 Comments on “Teaching Our Children to Fish”

  1. You’re so kind to link to my “boil an egg” post, and I’m glad you enjoyed it. There’s so much here to comment on… (And why haven’t we met in the blogosphere before this??? Better late than never!)

    I have never fully understood our American culture’s predisposition to sugar coat so much, least of all the most natural of body parts and functions – the key term here – “natural.”

    As for sending off our children to college, I think, as with other sorts of transitions (and pain), there isn’t a “clean” start and stop to any of it. Rather, there are waves, and we relive some goodbyes in an echo fashion as something triggers them.

    Both my children are now in college. One was home for a few weeks between his year at school, time working overseas, touching base home then returning to school (both kids are away). He was here long enough for me to fully enjoy him (and friends), so that goodbye was a bit easier.

    My firstborn has been overseas the better part of the year – studying then working – and was only home a few days before flying off to school. It wasn’t enough. I am “reliving” Empty Nest in a very different way, more palpably, as the silence he has left behind is weighty.

    Do we prepare them? I’ve come to the conclusion that we likely do better than we think.

    Do we prepare ourselves? Probably not so well.

    1. Ah, Wolfie (if I may be so bold…) how could I resist your boiled egg link? I have had this post rattling around in my head for two weeks now, the photo in my queue, but I just didn’t have all the pieces, until I read “How to boil an egg.”

      Even then, I knew it was a tie in, but I absolutely HAD to write about the penes and vaginas…that woman’s question BLEW MY MIND! LOL (The original title was slated to be Teaching Children about Cooking, Cleaning, Penes, Vaginas, and Fishing…) woooo… I certainly like where I ended up better…

      And, thanks for the feedback, because I was hoping it flowed as well as I thought it did, once it just kind of poured out…

      Why haven’t we met in the blogosphere before now??? Though I’ve been posting for two years, I haven’t been active in promoting the site until a few months ago…and my writing was very sporadic…

      This idea has been rattling around for about five years now, and the year before my oldest boy went to college, I figured it was time to start lining myself up for the new life I would have when my nest was empty… I don’t plan on pining away… 😉

      Now that we’ve met, I look forward to more… 🙂


  2. Followed Wolfie here from a link in FB. This piece was a lovely read and a nice change of pace from the horriffic stuff we are being fed by the presidential campaign, et. Al. You speak my language; now let’s see if I can subscribe. Blogspot and WordPress seem to go outta their way to make that tough. Gandalfe at the Bis Key Chronicles on WordPress.

    1. Biskey,

      Thanks for the read and the kind words. I must admit, I don’t like politics much and I don’t pay much mind to begin with, but this week I’m on vacation… No TV, no news, only the bare necessities online to meet my writing goals… I can only imagine the political horrors you speak of…

      Refreshing to hear another that speaks my language. 😉 If you can’t subscribe, just follow on FB or Twitter… Headin’ over to WordPress now…

      Thanks for visiting and commenting. 🙂


  3. Well this made me ugly cry. Who would have thought a Facebook conversation about Kindergarten would elicit such raw emotion from this crazy Mama?! Thank you for sharing this with me!!! ~Steph

  4. Steph,

    I hope that ugly cry included some happy tears. Otherwise that might make me seem like a Mean Girl and I don’t like Mean Girls. When I have the time to interact on FB, I find I rather enjoy all of the Nice Girls and Boys that I meet there. 🙂 Look forward to more inspiring conversations! 😉

  5. Love this post, Annah! In addition to my little girl, I also have three school-aged step children, and a son who will be graduating from college next weekend. I wrote this a year before he left for college: http://omgjustblogalready.blogspot.com/2009/04/doctor-you-told-me-i-was-having-baby.html

    I experienced that dramatic pulling away you speak of in the year before he left for college. His Freshman year of college, I heard from him only about once a week. I figured he was doing well, or I’d have heard otherwise, but I missed my son, I missed how close we were before he had to grow up and push away.

    When he came home for Thanksgiving break, the first thing he said to me was, “Man mom, I don’t know how you did what I’m doing with a baby to take care of. You’re amazing.” The pushing away was over, and we came back together as two adults, mother and son. He’s independent, yet extremely appreciative of me. I sometimes can’t believe how lucky I am to have a son as wonderful as him.

    1. Thanks for popping by and commenting, Carla!

      From fretting over your empty nest to celebrating the upcoming college graduation…LOL Time does fly! And isn’t just the grandest thing when our children quit pushing away and all of a sudden we are able to have adult-to-adult conversations with them? I have to say that this is one of my most favorite times…in addition to the toddler cuddle-time… 😉

      And lucky you, now you have many good years ahead of you before that nest is empty!

  6. Pingback: Ask Annah: How Do You Inspire Your Children to Do Housework? | The Five Facets

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