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Life lessons can come from young and unlikely sources


My children have uttered many nuggets of wisdom that I intend to live by in my adult life

I once believed that the best way to gain insight and wisdom was to commit to scholastic studies and digest the advice of my elders whose life experience far exceeded my own.

I have since found that I can learn just as much about the world, and possibly more, from the two people I am supposed to be teaching about life.

I am blessed with a rambunctious six-year-old son, Cooper, and a sugar-sweet three-year-old daughter named Isabel. Over the years, they have taught me a lot by their actions and their words. I can honestly say I am better for it.

Let’s begin with a safety lesson I picked up from Cooper last winter: oil-based bubble bath and gas fireplace equals painful surprise. My boy was bathing one evening, and before long, it was time get out and get ready for bed.

Cooper, who is not exactly a model of modesty, quickly jumped out of the tub, bypassed the towels, and streaked to the living room. The boy then positioned himself in the front of the fireplace, less than one foot away, and bent over to warm his posterior dry.

Like any good parent would, I watched the spectacle momentarily, sighed, and urged him to get dressed. Whether he immediately obeyed or not, I don’t recall, but what we didn’t know was the damage was already done.

The next day, Cooper developed what appeared to be some sort of rash on his backside. After keeping an eye on the situation for a day or so, and seeing it worsen, we took him to the doctor to find out what was going on.

At first, the adults in the room were stumped, then the doctor uttered the clue we needed. “It almost looks like a burn.” The burn took a few itchy and painful days to heal, but I think it taught us all a valuable lesson. Never will any of us dry off in front of the fireplace – at least not after a bubble bath.

My next nugget of wisdom came once again during bath time, and this time it was Isabel who became the teacher. We were talking dad-to-daughter about many topics, when I asked her, innocently enough, if she thought she was cute. I expected a quick yes, and a cute little smile. Not this time. Instead, she dropped this bit of knowledge on me:

“I don’t want to be too cute, because then my brain will go away.”

So now you all know, beauty comes at the sacrifice of brains, something I had long suspected, but never knew for sure. Rest assured I will try to keep my cuteness to a minimum from now on.

Another lesson originated when Cooper was flirting with trouble and possibly losing his TV privileges. He wanted to watch Superman, badly, and was making quite a stink about it. Finally, in a fit of growing frustration, I shouted, “If you don’t settle down, you won’t get to watch Jack Squat!” His response? “No, Dad, I told you I want to watch Superman!” Lesson learned – Superman trumps all other TV options, even Jack Squat.

I can only assume that my kids developed their affinity for unique wisdom from their mother, Jennifer. After all, she was the one who was visiting a garage sale with her parents as a teen and alerted them to a startling problem with some snow tires.

“Why would anyone want to buy these tires?” she called out. “There’s a bunch of nails in them!”

Jennifer not only identifies problems that others might overlook, she is open to new and unusual possibilities. One day, she was riding shotgun in my work truck, a dusty vehicle inside and out. She noticed the layer of dirt covering the windshield and suggested I give it a squirt of window washer fluid.

I kindly explained that the dirt was covering the inside of the windshield, leaving her to wonder how it got there. Rather than leave her curiosity unanswered, I simply told her that like water, dirt evaporates too. She was surprised to hear this, but willing to accept it as fact. In case you are beginning to wonder, yes, she is a blonde.

So you see, school is not the only place to learn new and useful things, and while the advice of wise elders has value, day-to-day family life can provide a wealth of information and discovery as well.

Why not take advantage? Soak up as much as much time with your loved ones as you can. You never know what you’ll learn.

Jason Chaney is the news editor for the Central Oregonian. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.