PATRICK MCVAY

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My Musings

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Hold That Rail

I would calculate that roughly half to three quarters of my conversations with my teenage children regard how to behave sensibly and avoid making stupid mistakes that you will regret later. I possess a Swiss army knife of advice, including these: bring water; a light sweater will help if the a/c is too high; the sun is low so wear a brimmed hat; hold the railing on these stairs.

That I'm mostly ignored when I say these things is no surprise. After hearing dad issue the same advice over and over, the value of the words has decreasing benefit. Indeed, after a while I begin to think that I should start to use "reverse psychology." Psychologists have a word for this: "psychology." There is nothing reverse about it. But anyway, in order to get my teens to bring water, I might say "whatever you do, don't bring water." To hell with Dad and his stupid advice! I'm bringing gallons of water! And sunscreen!

Of course, I'm a classic "do as I say not as I do" type of person. OK, mostly not – I tend to bring a rolling suitcase of items I might need "just in case" when I make a five-minute trip to the park. But occasionally, I could use my own advice. To wit, this morning I woke up in the middle Quebec City (awakened by chickens out the back window, no less), and excited for the day and wishing to give my wife some extra sleep to recover from our fancy dinner than ended at 11:30 PM, gathered all my stuff – shorts, a sweater, my backpack, my wallet, my watch – and then tried to sneak down the stairs carrying these things, which left me unable to hold the railing. You can imagine what happened next.

Somehow, falling down a flight of uncarpeted wooden steps left me with just a few very minor injuries. I seem to have the same number of teeth and eyes that I had yesterday, all bones are intact, and I managed to acquire just a few new battle scars. 

Lesson learned: prior to offering advice to your teens, practice saying your piece in front of a mirror.

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