It's funny how we learn. Or, maybe it's the timing. Or possibly how we're taught, or the lessons themselves. Hell, I dunno, it's just funny how it takes-what-it-takes-when-it-takes-the-way-it-takes before it all sinks in. And even funnier than that is that often -- I get to relearn the exact same thing, over and over again, UNTIL it takes.
I mean, I know not to put my hand on a hot stove. Duh, who doesn't know that? But we don't know what we don't know.
Years ago, I was cooking dinner with my nephew, who at the time was roughly four years old, give or take six months. I tried to get him involved in cooking all the time, because it is a skill that needs to be learned, and I knew that one day, he'd be alone with his father. I was training him to be independent, because I knew that I would not always be there for him. (And yes, I realized he was only four -- gotta start somewhere.)
As we're cooking some hamburger, i notice that my nephew is getting pretty close to the skillet with his face (remember, he's four years old, so just about head hight -- and yes, he's a very big boy -- looks much older than he really is).
"Be careful, JL, you'll burn yourself." I gently warned him.
"Nuh huh." he said as he looked at the skillet brim, just a fraction of an inch away. I could see that he didn't want to look embarrassed, and I had done everything in my power to not make him feel that way, but...
I proceeded to cook, and he watched. I was fake cooking at this point, I had turned down the heat, because I just had this feeling that I knew what was coming up. Attempting to look like I was cooking, I stirred the meat with intention, and watched JL out of the corner of my eye. I could see him creep closer and closer to the skillet, his little, lower lip reaching out, trembling, as he began to test the temperature of the surrounding air.
He glanced up at me a few times and I darted my eyes towards the meat and then back again. I knew it was coming. I could see it. Do I say something? If I do, he'll just keep trying until he get's it.
Then -- with a jerk and a smack of his hand landing on his lips, he whipped back. The deed was done. He'd burned his lower lip. He was embarrassed, I could see it. I hate embarrassment. It sucks, it sucks badly. So rather than make a big scene or reiterate what I'd told him previously, I simply commented, "Whoops! You okay?" With the tears being blinked back in his eyes, he nodded his head yes. I replied, "Looks like the meat is almost done, kiddo. You about ready to eat?" Putting his hands back at his side and with his head about a foot away from the skillet, he repeatedly licked his lower lip, and replied with a cool, I'm not hurt voice, "Ya."
We don't know what we don't know. We can be told time and again what to do and what not to do, but often, we absolutely must go through the problem, whether it is because it just has to be experienced, or because we insist on it going our way.
It's funny. It's funny how we learn what we learn, how we're taught, what it takes, and the way we make it take, before it just sinks in.
I'm still doing this today. I'm forty-four years old, and I still act like my four year old nephew, who's sure that he's right in the matter, and so tests it.
In the end, he's never put is face that close to the burner again. Nor his hands. That was five years ago. Now, with guidance, he uses hot pads to cook his food. He's smarter than me. I wish I'd quit putting my hands on that damn burner. Duh.