Parents Beware: Kids Learn Stuff


The other day, my wife and I discovered our five-year-old son, Otto, feeding cheese crackers to Buddy, our dog. I was horrified because the box was almost empty and I was hungry. My wife grabbed the package of crackers from him and said to me, "You taught him this."


"I don't teach my kids anything," I said (I was quite adamant). She stared at me with a smirk on her face, knowing I'd made a valid point. "Touché" I imagined her smirk saying.


Sure, I once dropped a gob of guacamole off a chip onto the floor, and then summoned the dog to come lap up the mess. Otto was in the room at the time playing with the toaster, but I didn't think he was paying attention. I tried being surreptitious about it, communicating with Buddy using hand signals and the special grunt language I’d invented and spent months training him to understand.


Otto may have sensed something was up, though, after Buddy loudly slurped the dip off the floor.  The greedy canine then rustled some chips from the bag with both paws and consumed the remaining guacamole, emphatically smacking as he shoveled morsels into his muzzle. Weeks of eating etiquette lessons soon followed after Buddy’s dismal display of manners.


It’s not that I haven’t tried teaching the kids stuff. Sometimes you have to know how to take advantage of the moment. Once, when my oldest son, Dustan, was six, he snuck up behind me while I was watching the movie “Sleepy Hollow.”


“Why does Mom not want me to watch this?” he asked.


At that exact moment on the screen, a sword sliced through the air and decapitated a non-Johnny Depp character. As the severed head rolled around on the floor, I said, “Because of that.”


Dustan slowly backed out of the room, his wide-eyed, amazed stare telling me he would remember this lesson for a while. I had looked forward to educating him in other matters, but he hasn’t asked me anything else in over a decade.


 Otto, however, is still curious and full of questions. While out on a Sunday drive, we passed a pasture with cattle. Two of them were doing what comes naturally to livestock after they make cow eyes at each other.


Otto asked, “Why is one cow on top of the other?”


“They’re dancing, sweetheart,” my wife said, slightly embarrassed.


“Yeah, they’re doing the Milkshake. Or the Bovine Boogie. What did it look like to you?” I said, glancing at my wife.


“Just keep your eyes on the road,” my wife said to me. She peeked in the backseat.


“Otto! Stop doing that!” my wife screamed. “Sit down and put on your seatbelt!” She looked at me. “Do you see what he is doing?”


“Well he didn’t learn it from me,” I said.


“For once, I’ll agree with you,” my wife said.


Later, I celebrated my victory with a delicious snack of cheese crackers and a milkshake.