Growing up, one of the most frustrating things for my parents was letting me learn things on my own. They had 40+ years of experience with relationships, school, family, love, adversity, work, careers, conflict, LIFE and…a kid that really wasn’t interested.
Time and time again, all three of us would wrestle with what kind of lessons I could and would absorb and which ones I had to suffer through myself.
I was 7 years old when a family of wasps decided to nest in the screen of my parents’ bedroom window. I was 7 years old when I adopted my uncontrollable urge to drive them nuts. My favorite after-school activity included smacking the heel of my foot up against the glass to watch how they reacted (I wasn’t always the greatest earth muffin).
“Stop, Alex….Don’t do that, Alex….Quit kicked the window, Alex…Alex, get your damn foot off the window!!” …I don’t really remember if my mom swore at me but looking back, c’mon – I hope she did.
And after a few persistent days of sneaking into my parents’ bedroom to disrupt the sweet, wasp family…all hell broke loose and so did the wasps. I broke the window, had one of those open-your-mouth-to-scream-but-nothing-comes-out moments and serpentined to the bathroom. SAVE YOURSELF!
“Some lessons can only be learned that hard way.”
But here’s the thing: I crawled out of my bathroom hideaway….(eventually)…smelling like a rose.
I didn’t get hurt. I didn’t get stung. I didn’t even have to pay for the broken window. And whatever immediate punishment my parents deemed fit at the time, it’s been lost on me over the years. The hard lesson wasn’t all that hard to take.
So why don’t I kick windows filled with wasps anymore?
The window lesson wasn’t about avoiding consequences or pain. I didn’t stop doing stupid stuff because I was worried I was going to get hurt. I stopped doing stupid stuff because after I deemed the bedroom-warzone safe and crawled out of that bathroom – I had to slink over to my parents and admit that the thing they warned me would happen 72 times…happened.
What’s the lesson? You’re not supposed to listen to your parents because you’re scared of them, dingbat. You listen so you don’t have to go through the same muck that they did as a kid. You listen so you don’t have to panic about a family of wasps declaring nuclear war on your uncovered extremities.
A couple of weeks ago, Dad and I were hiking through the San Juan forest. He unknowingly stepped on a bees nest and marched past the scene. I was right on top of the victims when they realized what had happened. What transpired next was not pretty and not painless. Karma took a long time coming around but hey, I got mine. And I still remember that damn window.