|Photo credit: Nicolas Nova|
For me, that would have to be: Be careful.
Like, hello mom, have we ever met? Was I not already cautious and anxious and timid as all get out? Or all get in, because timid people and outside are not great friends. It's not like I rode my tricycle down the front steps to be a daredevil. It made perfect sense at the time. It seemed like a completely reasonable thing to do. Of course, two year olds are poor judges of pretty much anything. But I'm not the one who sent a four year old and a two year old out to play in the yard by themselves.
It was the 70s. People did that then.
But I was a wee kid, so not my fault. Wanna blame me for stuff that happened in the 80s and 90s? We can talk. But polyester clothes and toys that you could totally choke on--not my fault.
And I managed to stay out of the emergency room for 10 years after that, so I think that was exceedingly careful. Just think of all the gusto I didn't go for because I was being careful.
When I was learning how to roller skate, I'd skate in front of my house with a broom stick to steady me because I was afraid to fall down. My mom would suggest that I try to give up the training wheels in a tone that suggested I was embarrassing her in front of the neighborhood squirrels.
I was terrified to fall because of constantly being told to be careful, and now she was telling me to throw caution to the wind? Way to make with the mixed messages, there.
Besides, when I was learning to ride my bike without training wheels, it involved a lot of falling into the neighbor's shrubbery, so training wheels are pretty damn nifty if you ask me.
One time in 6th grade, a boy in my class called my house, said "Jen I like you," and hung up. Immediately afterwards, a girl from my class called up to tell me that this guy liked me. I said, "Yes, I know," since he had just informed me of this in a fairly traditional manner.
This whole time, my parents were standing over me, and my mother told me to be careful. I'd been getting picked on by completely different kids and 6th graders dating was not that much of a thing back then. So she thought this was some elaborate prank.
It was not. I don't think the two kids had thought things through. I think she asked me if I liked him and I probably said that I barely knew him, so how could I know?
And then nothing else happened. No suggestion that a bunch of us go to the movies together, or hang out or whatever so we could get to know each other. Because we were eleven and complete idiots in matters of the heart.
Two years later, the same guy asked me to go with him to our 8th grade prom. I said yes, but then when I saw he'd brought a friend with him, I panicked and changed my answer because I thought he was playing a trick on me.
Because this is what happens when you tell a child with massive social anxiety to be careful.
What's the worst advice you've ever received?