July 14, 1999

Teaching kids the unteachable
___I'll admit that moms get a lot of tough jobs related to child-rearing. There's the whole pregnancy thing, for starters. And the labor and delivery. And the added challenge of cleaning up the messes of husband and children alike.
___What I'm about to say in no way negates any of these great sacrifices, these labors of love, these character-b
uilding experiences.
___But the truth is, dads get stuck with the responsibility for teaching their kids the things that are truly unteachable. Like how to ride a bike without training wheels. Or how to ice skate.
___In our world of how-to authorities, parents can pick up books that tell you how to do most of the essentials (if you ever have time to read those books while trying to do the essentials). But some things are just darn-near impossible to teach a kid. Either he gets it, or he doesn't.
___With their seventh birthday approaching, I finally got one of our twin boys to ride his bike without training wheels. But I found myself at a loss for words in trying to explain to him how to balance himself on the bike. How do you explain balance? Balance is something you feel, not something you define.
___His brother still refuses to try.
___And that's OK with me for now, because I just spent an afternoon trying for the second time to teach him to ice skate. Once again, I ranked somewhere slightly above utter failure in my efforts.
___It's sure going to be embarrassing for both of us when he's a teenager going to ice skating parties and I'm still tagging along to help him around the rink. Maybe by then I will have discovered the secret source of fatherly wisdom that will give me just the right words to say to teach him how to skate with confidence.
___Or maybe we can help him make friends with kids who want to have birthday parties at the zoo.
______Life is rough, isn't it? Compared to all the stuff I get to teach them, I don't think bike riding and ice skating are as big a deal. Potty training comes to mind.
___Things like making the bed, picking up toys, taking out the trash, keeping your mouth closed when chewing, saying "please" and "thank you" and sitting down while eating seem even more difficult to get across than how
to balance on a bicycle.
___While Mark helps with these tools of civilization, most of the burden falls on me because I am with the boys more. It would probably be more productive to record our lines on a tape recorder and turn it on throughout the day. I'm not above a little brainwashing if it will do the trick.
___We seem to have entered a new phase which I think is definitely a "boy" thing. Making rude noises and pretending to spit are just some of the joys of having almost-second graders in the house. And they haven't even been around their Uncle Mark for several months!
___The most difficult thing to teach, and the most aggravating, is how to use the potty correctly. Deliver me from three males. At least I have triumphed in the great toilet seat war--they now return the lid to the down position most of the time. We take our victories where we can get them.
___Sometimes I lose sight of the most important task we have as parents as I struggle through the quagmire of everyday frustrations. In the midst of it all, we need to teach them about Jesus and show them God's love.
___That will give them all the balance they need for living.

___He Said/She Said is a new regular feature of the Baptist Standard's on-line edition. Mark Wingfield is managing editor of the Standard. Alison Wingfield is a freelance writer. The Wingfields moved to Texas in January from Louisville, Ky., where Mark had been editor of the Western Recorder, in which this column appeared weekly.

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