May 9

Unsolicited Advice

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That is your basic Jones family concentration tongue.

If I’m being honest, which I think you want me to be, guys really, truly don’t appreciate unsolicited advice…..ever…..never ever….ever never never ever.  No matter how justified a wife is in letting her husband know how to better his grocery shopping, his cooking, his cleaning, his dressing….it’s unfortunately not.  There is something in the male DNA that automatically rejects helpful advice if that advice is not requested.  Take, for instance, grocery shopping.  Sure, he didn’t buy the brand of pasta that she likes.  But when she brings up “advice for next time”, he automatically thinks to himself, “HEY!  Is this pasta going to kill you? Can it physically take you out? Then just suck it up and eat it!”  Not me, of course.  Every opportunity to improve myself in the eyes of my wife, I am eager to hear….right Gayle?  I have NEVER rolled my eyes at my wife while she advised me on how to make my sauteed onions not so undercooked and “thick.” Why, I consider myself her “project” and am permanently open to helpful suggestions!*

This is why I don’t know why I’m surprised by Noble’s reaction to me teaching him to ride a bike. He was interested in riding his bike without the training wheels, and so I jumped at the opportunity to teach my son to ride a bike! What a great father/son experience!  And there I was, giving him one piece of unsolicited advice after another.

“Lean the opposite way next time.” “You need to pedal faster.” “If you say I can’t, then you won’t.” “Keep your eyes forward.” “Don’t hit the fence next time.” “Crying doesn’t help you balance.”

All of it was really good, solid bicycling advice.  But it was at the point when he was snapping back at me things like, “I can do it!” or “I know!” that I realized that maybe I should just back off and let this kid learn the way he wants: on his own.  So I stepped back, and I stopped giving him dumb advice that he wasn’t requesting.  And within minutes he was beginning to bike on his own.

Even though I’m a little sad that I can’t be in there giving him all kinds of fatherly advice, it’s been a fun process of watching him figure this out on his own.  It’s also been a little bit funny as well.  I don’t know how it happens, but when he crashes, he must bring his hand across a certain way, because right before he falls, the little horn blows.  It’s very clownish and hilarious hearing a little pre-wipe out toot.  He also, at one point, was so frustrated with the bike that he was crying and biking at the same time.  It looked like somebody had fully punished him for something, and that punishment was to ride a bike, and so he was fulfilling his punishment….loaded with tears. It’s very rare to see a human being cry biking.  But there he was, doing something really fun and showing the opposite emotion while doing it.

So what have I learned during this experience?  I learned that Noble is a typical guy who needs space to learn things on his own.  I learned that sometimes I get too excited about teaching my kids things, and I need to back it up a bit. If/when he needs advice, he’ll come for it, and I’ll be excited and ready when that happens.  He is a guy, and his advice should be solicited as much as possible.

*These statements are not true.  I struggle daily with accepting advice.  I’m a guy.  Lower the bar for me please.

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