I learned the definition of the word contradictory when I was the wise age of “9 going on 10.” At that time, my family lived in Beaufort, NC. I was in the fourth grade and once a week I would go to work with my dad after school before we would walk down the street to my piano lesson. Do you remember when you got to go to work with your parents? How all those “older” people would make a big fuss over you. One day, I was at his office and one of the ladies that worked with him had a niece who was in my class. I was working on a project she heard about and she said something about the assignment that wasn’t true. I can’t remember what she said, maybe it was the due date or some part of the work she had heard her niece talk about, but I corrected her. She responded back in disagreement and in my full pre-adolescent mouthy little know-it-all fashion, I argued back. I must have been indignant (I mean seriously, how would my friend’s aunt possibly know more about our project than I did?) and rude.
It came time to walk to my piano class and my father didn’t waste the opportunity to correct me. I remember him saying that when I spoke to adults, he wanted me to do so without being contradictory. He had to define the word for me. I was surprised to know that’s how I sounded. In my mind, I was stating facts and was unaware of my ‘delivery.’
Life is full of contradictions, especially in dealing with kids. You’ve probably heard yourself say things like “Be yourself…but, not like that” or “Don’t talk to strangers, but be polite when they speak to you” or, my personal favorite, “Don’t be a tattle-tale but if someone is mean to you, you need to tell me.” I can feel the hairs on my neck rising now when I just think of that long, whiny drawn out, “Moooommmmm, he’s…(you fill in the blank, she has a big brother).”