Important Things, Big and Small

I noticed while we were on the train today that Manchild’s fly was a little low. I quietly beckoned him to come a little closer so I could discretely take care of the problem.

“What?” he asked.

“Come here,” I said, trying not to draw attention.


“Just come here.”


“Quickly, please.”

By this time, my attempts at discretion were in vain. All eyes on our side of the train car were on us. But what do you do? I, personally, tried to — again, discretely — reach down to zip the boys pants up — at which point he lifted his shirt up to his armpits and, again, my efforts were in vain.

The point of the story is this: I realize that there comes a time in a child’s life when he is no longer okay with this sort of thing. He learns to zip his own fly, he is aware that he should keep his body covered in public, he starts to get a sense of personal space and social norms and all that good stuff. Now, do I have to spell it out for the kid every time we come up on a new situation like this? Or is it something that he will naturally come to realize as he gets older?

Because, you see, there are so many tiny things about motherhood. Tiny, like teaching a child to zip up his fly. Tiny, like giving him a hug just because. Some of those tiny things are for the benefit of others — like today when I asked the boys to not touch the map on the bus because another passenger thought it might be annoying to the driver (the map was right behind the driver’s seat). Some of those tiny things are for me, so I feel like at least I’m trying to be a good mom. And some of them are for the kids because tiny things can make a big difference.

But some of the tiny things are just tiny. There are a lot of them. They can add up quickly and distract from more important things. I know I need to teach my kids about modesty and respecting personal boundaries and being aware of the situation and knowing what is appropriate and what is not at any given time and place. I’m finding that doing that, however, and helping them learn the overall message of respect for self and others versus the little tiny rules, like don’t take your clothes off on the train, or the park, or the library or wherever, is kind of challenging.


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  1. Lizzie, I agree. We usually spend plenty of time on the ‘little’ things because they come up all the time. That’s part of what Moms do. You do an impressive job of bringing those ‘little things’ back to ‘the basics’ when you teach your children — and, oh, how important that is. I will never forget the ‘teach them the basic principles’ instruction I received after Micah’s dad died. There is strength therein — but is best done gradually as the children mature.


    lizzie Reply:

    Thanks, Mom. I will try to remember to take the time along the way to teach them the principles. That seems like sound advice.


  2. I think that they learn those things through experience, which is a culmination of us teaching them and observing the world around them.
    Just like you taught him on the train. When they lift up their shirts in public to their armpits, we calmly teach them that we need to keep our tummies covered, so that we can be modest. Like you said it’s so tiny, but it all adds up and thats how they learn it. It only takes a second to say, and they most likely will do it again, but they ARE learning. slowly but surely.
    I don’t think there is a single moment when we just teach them those things. They learn as the situations arise (because we remind them), they learn about it from those around us. They learn about it because there is probably no adults on the train holding their shirts to their armpits. You know?


    lizzie Reply:

    I do hope all the little reminders add up . . . and that they learn to observe what it is going on around them. I think that the fact that they are so unaware of what is going on is really endearing sometimes, but it’s moments like on the train when I wish they would be a little bit more aware.

    Thanks for your thoughts. I really appreciate it.


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