Of Inches, Miles, and Mindful Parenting: #JusJoJan 17

“Give you an inch, and you’ll take a mile.”

I lost count how many times I heard that as a child. It was a way to point out my failings, or to deny me something on the basis that I would certainly exploit it.

It always occurred to me that there was a lot of distance between an inch and a mile – which meant there was a lot of exaggeration in the family cliché. I never said this to either of my parents – speaking my mind about things like was one of the inches I was never given.

I was much older before I really understood what an unexamined thought was, or how such things could be passed down through the generations of a family, never really thought through, just treated as though they were unassailable facts – until someone takes the time to examine them.

Maybe it’s because words and meanings are extremely important to me, or some other quirk of my nature that my own parents don’t share – but I did examine this old saying. And when I did, I found it lacking.

I was already a parent by then. When I realized that my childhood sense of the unfairness of the assumption was well-founded, I stopped using it with my own children.

I started giving them inches. Then feet. Then yards.

Do they “take a mile?”

Well, here’s a conversation I had with my son via Discord. He’s 17. He was at home alone while my daughter and I went to a concert and a water park gathering of unschooling families. He could have gone with us, but declined my invitation, because “that’s just not my kind of thing.”

I left him with ample spending money, since he likes to order pizza when he’s home alone, and I wanted him to have plenty enough to do that, and get any extras he might want, too.

I also left an emergency fund on my desk. Once, our well pump went out while Jim and I were away, and Jeremiah handled interacting with and paying the repairman. He also has access to one of our two family debit cards, and has had it in his wallet for months now. He didn’t use the card while we were away.

Note that he wasn’t asking to spend any of the money – just to trade the bills he had for more usable currency, so he could tip the pizza deliveryman.

Sometimes, apparently, if you consistently give a kid considerably more than a mile, he’ll only take a fraction of an inch – and he’ll do that with respect and mindfulness.

This Jot is part of Just Jot It January, where today’s prompt, “Inch”, comes from John Holton. Learn more or join in by clicking the links.

Till Next Time!