Ever do something that undermined the message you were trying to teach?
Right before lunch today, I took my daughter, Bailey (3 1/2 yrs old), and my two nephews (6 and 4 years) to the park at the end of the block – more like a patch of grass with a play gym on it. We had been there a few minutes when my nephews called me over to look at what they found. Bailey followed me over, and we saw a rattlesnake crawling along the wall at the side of the park.
Ah, the joys of living in the New Mexico. It really was not surprising to find the snake there, the park is right next to a stretch of open desert. It was obvious how the snake got there.
Being the good father/protector that I am, I told the kids to keep their distance. But being the free-range kids advocate that I am, I also took the opportunity to use this as a teaching moment. I explained how dangerous rattlesnakes are, pointed out the rattle, and told them how the snake uses it to make noise to warn people or other animals away when it feels threatened, but sometimes they will bite without rattling first. All the while I repeatedly warned them to stay away from rattlesnakes.
I managed to get a picture before it crawled away and out of the park.
The danger abated, we played a bit more before heading back to the house. My wife was there when we got back, and we told her about our encounter. My wife asked if the kids tried to play with it with that worried mom tone. “Of course not,” I said and gave Bailey an impromptu quiz to show the valuable life lesson she learned.
“Bailey, what do you do when you see a rattlesnake?”
My daughter furrowed her brow for a few seconds while she pondered the question. Her face lit up and I knew she figured out the answer. My fatherly pride kicked up another notch.
So what do you do when you see a rattlesnake?
“You take a picture!” Bailey announced excitedly. My wife burst into laughter.
Sigh. It easy to forget that what you do is more of an example for you kids than what you say.