Saturday, August 29, 2009

Is The Light Green?

One of the great joys of my life was picking up my kids after work! No matter what happened during the day, good and bad, everything was quickly forgotten when I saw my kids’ faces!!

When my daughter was about 18 months old (our only child at that time), I would often play the following game with her: When I stopped at a red traffic light, I would tell her that I was going to grab a quick nap and that I wanted her to pay close attention to the red light and let me know when it turned green.

Of course, I wasn’t really sleeping. Rather, it was my way of teaching her about traffic lights and responsibility. After all, if she didn’t tell me when the light turned green, it’s possible that I would continue to “sleep” and not drive home!!

So, without fail, I would pretend to sleep, with my left eye partially opened to see the light, while she stared intensively at the red light waiting for it to turn green. And, also without fail, she quickly alerted me to the fact that the light had turned green. As a part of the slapstick routine, I quickly acted as though I had been instantly awakened from a very deep sleep! I always began to drive while profusely thanking her for all of her help, thereby reaffirming her alertness, sense of responsibility, and her ability to read the lights!

This little routine carried on for several months. One time, however, the light turned green and she did not tell me!!!! Well, since I was looking at the light with my partially opened left eye, I pretended to wake up at that exact moment and I said something to the effect that the light had turned green. With that little announcement, I began to drive home.

I asked her why she had not alerted me to the green light. She told me that she was just about to tell me that it had turned green, but that I had awakened before she had been able to do so. She had a confirming and knowing smirk on her face!! O.K., was she really about to tell me or was it a sign that she was on to the game? Hmmmmmm!!

The next day, after picking her up and making the drive home, we stopped at a red light. Almost upon cue, I told her that I was going to take a nap and that she needed to let me know when the light turned green. I partially kept my left eye opened to see the light and I partially kept my right eye opened to see her!! Guess what I saw???????? A cute little 23-month-old girl STARING AT ME – NOT THE LIGHT!!!!!!!

Yes, she had caught on to my little scam. Her dad had never been sleeping at the light – he had been tricking his favorite daughter the whole time!! Of course, to keep the scam alive as long as possible, I kept pretending to sleep each time over the next few months. Each time, I noted that she was staring at me and not the light. I would always have to instantly “awaken” when the light turned green and then continue driving!!! Before the age of 2-years-old, she had managed to take control of the scam!!

At some point, probably when she was about 30 months old, I finally asked her why she was always staring at me and not the light. She asked me how I knew that she was staring at me when I was sleeping!! Yikes!! I had to confess that I had never actually been sleeping at the red lights. Rather, I was just training her to watch for the lights and to learn how to help others.

She then confessed that she had known that all along. She further told me that it had not made any sense that her dad would engage in such a dangerous practice on the road. So, early on, she began to check me out and she discovered that I had not actually been sleeping. But, trying to be a dutiful daughter, she decided to continue the game as along as I was willing to play it!!

So, are your kids watching you? Oh yes, they are watching you all of the time!! Do your kids know when you’re scamming them? Oh yes, they do!!

Lesson learned? – Always be honest with your kids, behave in a responsible manner in which they can always be proud, and, oh yes, play the occasional scam game with them, as it will let them know that you’re capable of having fun while trying to teach them lessons that they will learn and keep forever!!

Also, the occasional fun scam game allows for great conversation in later years with your kids! And, yes, I just know that my daughter is going to play this same scam game with her kids someday!!!!!

Paul W. Reeves

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