Sometimes, our kids learn some life lessons when we are ready to teach them. Other times, things occur unexpectedly, leaving us scrambling to find the best way to handle the teachable moment.
One life lesson, “The Better Offer,” presented itself this week. Janey and two of her friends had plans, but one of the trio received another, apparently more enticing invitation to the exact same event they were attending.
Better seats? More popular girl? Fancier transportation? Whatever the reason, Janey’s friend accepted a better offer.
What followed was that awkward moment when she had to break her original plans. Like an elephant trying to slip out of a room through a small door, there is realy no way to exit gracefully.
I looked no further than “The Brady Bunch” to help me maneuver through this learning lesson. The apropos episode: when Marcia breaks her date with Charlie. Thank you, YouTube.
For those of you who, like me, grew up worshipping the Brady family, you know that those six kids had a whole lot of incidental learning going on. They tackled everything: sibling jealously, dishonesty, bragging, and finding one’s own identity.
Janey and her little brother and sister cuddled with me in bed and watched on my laptop. Marcia broke her date with nice guy Charlie for Saturday night because she got asked out by Doug, a good-looking football player; a “big man on campus” who drives a convertible sports car. She told Charlie, “Something suddenly came up.”
Whether my kids were engaged by the groovy clothes everyone was wearing, the avocado green dial telephone, or the actual moral lesson unfolding before them, there was not a peep and all eyes were glued to the monitor.
Next, as Marcia walked out the aluminum-framed slider into the Brady backyard, she got hit in the face with a football. Marcia’s karmic energy was traveling in the fast lane. The next day at school when Doug saw her big swollen nose, he broke their date telling her, “Something suddenly came up.”
Obviously Marcia Brady was not the first to toss another’s feelings aside and take a better offer. It’s human nature. The Better Offer was conceived long before HYPERLINK “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sherwood_Schwartz” \o “Sherwood Schwartz” Sherwood Schwartz created “The Brady Bunch.” Think in terms of survival.
Your friend invites you over for dinner and you accept. But the wooly mammoth they dragged back to the cave is smallish, sort of the runt of the pack. Meanwhile, another friend a few caves down invites you over for dinner and their wooly mammoth is enormous. It is in your best interest to break the first date and go with the better offer. You have no idea when your next meal will be. It’s vital to get your fill.
In middle school, one’s social position may feel as important as life and death. Maybe it’s an evolutionary byproduct.
We have evolved into intelligent, critically thinking and deeply feeling beings. If we are fortunate, our daily decisions have little to do with true survival. Marcia learned that the better offer isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be, especially if it means hurting another. She confesses to Charlie. “I played a dirty trick on you.”
So what do we tell our kids? We don’t have a script like Mike and Carol Brady and usually we get only one take for each situation.
I told Janey the truth. What she has to give is pretty darn fabulous: Thoughtfulness, integrity, fairness, and generosity of spirit. It’s a package deal. No bells or whistles, just wholesome friendship. That’s her final and best offer.
Those who take her up on it are very lucky indeed.