Discovering Your Parents Don’t Know Everything

Purposeful Parent Tip:  We all have gifts. Help your child discover and appreciate theirs.

I can remember the day when I realized that my dad didn’t know everything. I was in elementary school and was tasked with a science experiment. Science is not my thing – never has been. I had chosen to test something with a potato and had no idea how to do it. I asked my father for help. He instructed me on what to do and I was all set.

Days passed and nothing happened with the potato. I brought it into school and saw that other students had theirs set up a bit differently and their potatoes were responding. Clearly we’d done something wrong. When the other kids pointed this out to me (in that oh so polite way of laughing at me), I felt embarrassed. How could my dad not know this? He knew everything!

It’s an odd moment when you realize your parents are not infallible, all-knowing, all-everything. And perhaps more so when it’s your dad. For me, dads are supposed to know how to do everything from tossing a football, to painting a room, to fixing a clogged toilet. I don’t know why or where I got this notion as my own father did not exemplify this.  Maybe too much “Leave it to Beaver”.

My father was a musician. That was his gift. He could play just about any instrument. He knew and understood music theory. He taught music. He conducted the best high school jazz band on Long Island. He owned a music store. He played in a band. He sang. When things broke around the house, he attempted to fix them, but I don’t recall him doing this too well. And while I’m told he tossed a baseball to my eldest brother all the time, I don’t have any memories of him doing this with my other siblings, nor me. (Of course, I had no interest in a game of catch either.)

My son experienced a similar realization the other day when he and I were setting up our new HD-TV. He was very excited about it because he paid for it with earnings from his first summer job.

After we’d ordered it, he talked about how much fun it would be for him and me to set up the TV. “It’ll be like our own project that we can do together,” he said. When it arrived earlier than expected, he was beyond excited, asking me every hour on the hour when we could set it up.

We took it out of the box and began to attach the stand. Seemed like a good place to start. Thirty minutes passed. My son sees a plastic bag full of screws and asks if this is something we need might need. I see that there are six screws in the bag and there are six holes for the stand. Forty-five  minutes later, the stand is attached.

Cables were next. I won’t lie. I’ve broken out into a cold sweat at this point as I have no idea what goes where and I’m praying for the manual to be so crystal clear that a 2 year-old could understand it. It wasn’t. But we pressed on and I was overjoyed when there was an actual picture on the TV.

This joy was quickly eliminated when my son said “It doesn’t look any different from our old TV.” And he was right. I contacted my cable provider only to find out that I needed a special HDMI cable in order to take advantage of the HD capability. My son was clearly disappointed since it was late and Radio Shack was surely closed.

We decided to set up his PlayStation and again hit a roadblock. No difference from the old TV.

My attempts to reason with him failed to change his sunken mood. “How come this stuff always happens to us? Every time we get something new, it never works,” he lamented. And he was right again. Memories of failed attempts to set up digital cameras, iPods, and Kindles flooded back to me.

“Electronics just aren’t not my thing,” I said to him. “I don’t understand how they work. It just doesn’t come that easy for me.”

I could see my son’s face change after I said this. It was the same expression I had after my failed science experiment so many years ago in that elementary school classroom.

While he was disappointed that the “new TV setup project” did not turn out as planned, he did realize despite his mother not having an ounce of electronics know-how, that within 24 hours, she had picked up a new cable, contacted her savvy brother-in-law for help, utilized the information sent to her by her cable provider and had the TV and Playstation up and running. To say he was beyond happy is an understatement.

“Thank you Mom! Thank you for everything you did to help get the TV set up. I’m so happy!”

I may not have an electronics bone in my body but I know who does and I know how to find solutions. That’s one of my gifts. And while my son learned that his mom doesn’t know an HDMI cable from a hole in the wall, he also saw that his mother is a savvy solution finder who doesn’t give up.

I would never have thought to call my dad to help me with our latest TV adventure. That’s not his gift. And it’s likely my children won’t call me for many of the challenges they will face in their lives. But hopefully I will have taught them that there’s always a solution to a problem – you just have to ask the right person.

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