How My Son Learned The Value of Mommy's Repeat Instructions.


I was reminding my 7 year old to put back dirty clothes in the laundry basket, when he snapped in a frustrated voice – “Why do you always keep repeating instructions, mommy? I got it already!” And then he added, mimicking my voice, “Don’t forget to drink enough water, talk to your teacher if you have doubts, don’t be late to school…yada..yada..yada.. I’m so tired of hearing this every day.”

Well. It was one of those parenting moments – when your mental image of yourself as a trailblazing mom giving her children ample space and wise guidance, gently nudging them towards their responsibilities is flipped in an instant to a grim nag, frustrating her son.

As I sat sipping my tea thoughtfully after the kids left to school, I thought back to a time when I had almost snapped similarly at another person for rattling instructions at me ad nauseum. It was a few years ago – a time before kids and parent duties. My husband and I were on vacation in Portland, Oregon state. As a young couple raring to explore exciting experiences, we signed up for our first white water rafting trip on Level 4 – never mind that we neither of us knew how to swim. We defiantly boarded the bus that took us high up the mountains for the launch point at Level 3 (rapid flow waters), merging ahead with Level 4 (rapid flow on very snake-like curly paths leading to a waterfall).

At first, I paid close attention to the guide standing in the aisle, as she undertook our education on this popular sport.

“If you fall out of the boat,” she said, “it is very important that you pull your feet up so that you don’t get a foot caught under the rocks below.” She stressed again, “Think toes to nose,” and gave us a precarious demonstration, bracing herself and hoisting one foot toward her nose, “then look for the boat and reach for the oar or the rope.”

From then on, our guide kept repeating these instructions, like a mantra, till all I could hear was “toes to nose” ringing in my head, as we bundled out towards the river. We had been on the road since 4 AM and were in a mesmeric sleepy state, lulled by the rocking of the bus.

“Toes to the nose,” I heard again. And then, “look for the boat.”

By the time we arrived at the river’s edge, I had heard the two phrases so many times I felt sli