The Only Advice You Ever Need

M28949-1a 004
M28949-1a 004

When my kids were young, every waking, walking, talking moment was an important teaching moment. So many things to impart, to model, to drive home: names and ABCS,  numbers and how to fold a slice of pizza to eat it NY style. I taught them how to take turns, how to climb the steps to the slide, and the magic of please and thank you. I taught them how to wipe their sweet little tushies.

As they got older and those sweet little tushies turned into cute little bums, the lessons became more nuanced. How to push their peas onto the back of their fork with their knife (ok, that one their very proper Brit dad taught them), how to avoid hurting other people’s feelings, when to call me from school. Don’t get me wrong, I like nothing better than imparting moral lessons at the dinner table. As my younger son once famously lamented: You have a lesson for everything!! But as they get older and our time together becomes compressed I realized I could sum up most of my lessons into the only piece of advice you really ever need to give your kids.

Don’t be an asshole.

All the things I strive to teach my kids–playing fair, thinking about others, listening, taking turns, being kind, respecting differences, looking after their belongings, not eating with their head in their plates…ALL of those things fall neatly under the category of not being an asshole.

One of the perks of older children is the freedom to call a spade a spade. Or in this case, an asshole an asshole. As the cute little bums gave way to big boy butts and a tween-age tuchus, the stranglehold we kept on our four-letter word usage has loosened, but along the way we’ve used every fill-in-the-blank to round out this advice, from ding-dong to dolt, to jerk or wally (ok, my very proper Brit husband used wally). But keeping it four-letter-word real now appeals to their vulgar little minds. It catches their attention. Sometimes it makes them laugh. And they remember it. Hopefully as they go forth into the world they hear my strident Mom voice in their conscience reminding them to ask, WWaAD?*


The answer? Oh, it could be as simple as walking out of a public toilet knowing full well the toilet paper was gone yet not giving the next person a heads up. But there are so, so many other things.

Like excluding someone on the basis of looks or popularity, spreading rumors, sabotaging friendships. Like feeling better about themselves by making someone else feel bad or taking out their frustrations on an easy target. An asshole demands his way or the highway. She mocks the boy who summoned up the courage to ask her to dance. Like making the cheap joke just to get the laugh, even if it means hurting someone else’s feelings. Like stepping on whoever is in their way with no regard, or even sometimes just for fun. An asshole will pressure you to do something that makes you feel uncomfortable, all squirmy in the gut.

Don’t be an asshole.

The thing about ding-dong dolt wallies is that though their intentions are sometimes cruel, often it’s just a case of not stopping to think about how your actions or words are going to affect those around you. Stopping to think is doable. It just requires a little bit extra.

Don’t be a wally. Take the extra thirty seconds.

60af4c5eabf01b83fd8e100cd8c45c71We all hurt other people’s feelings. Sometimes even intentionally. We all eat with our fingers and forget to flush the toilet, say things we don’t mean or talk in the movie theatre. We all make mistakes and bad choices. But if you’re an asshole, you probably won’t learn from them.

All the lessons I’ve taught over the years. All the speeches and pleas, they can all be diluted into that one, single lesson.

Don’t be an asshole.

The world has enough. Like that woman last week who didn’t warn me about the toilet paper.

*What Would an Asshole Do?


10 thoughts on “The Only Advice You Ever Need

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  1. If I had to summarize life, I’d call it a continuous tug of war between being generous versus being selfish … in any given situation, one, the other, or somewhere in between, is called for.

    IOW, sometimes being an a-hole is the way to go.


    1. Generally speaking, I’ve found I always feel better about myself when I take the generous route. I mean, of course I’ve been an asshole from time to time, but it usually leaves a nasty taste in my mouth.


      1. Perhaps its the start of me getting old and crusty, but if someone is being jerkish toward me, I have no problem being less-than-nice back. I don’t go as far as creating a mini-war or anything, but the jerk-all-the-time co-worker for example shouldn’t expect me to point out they have three feet of toilet paper stuck to their shoe.


      2. Ah, see now that’s a whole different kettle of fish ;-). (And I’m right there with you on the old and crusty ascent). But those situations sound like reactions as opposed to just being dickish for the sake of being an ass.


  2. As I reminded some family members during some family “discussion”: Everyone has one (assholes, that is). The smart ones have figured out how to hide theirs. And lordy knows, we need fewer obvious assholes.


    1. What’s the old saying? Opinions are like assholes–everyone has one and everyone thinks theirs is the only one that doesn’t stink. Sadly, the world seems to be producing them–or at least encouraging them–at a rather alarming rate!


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