As much as we try to teach our kids life lessons, they will automatically believe that we are just nagging, as that is how we derive pleasure in our lives! Sometimes it takes the painful journey of them not following your advice to learn the lesson the hard way.
Last week my eldest daughter learnt her lesson through experience, and whilst it broke my heart, she will also never make the same mistake again! We were out on our boat with multiple families (17 kids and 15 adults in total!). To say it was hectic is an understatement, but it was also amazingly great fun. We took care to lather the younger kids in sunscreen because we all know the dangers of sunburn in the harsh Australian sun. My eldest daughter is 16 and as such it is very uncool to apply sunscreen directly to her skin, so instead mild reminders like ‘I hope you have sunscreen on’ were aimed in her direction.
Unfortunately, even though I have vigilantly applied sunscreen to her beautiful skin since birth, she likes to look tanned and believes (or should I say believed) that sunburn turns into tan. She is aware of the dangers of sunburn – from pain, to the chance of melanoma, to age spots and wrinkles when you are older, but none of these were deterrent enough for her to apply sunscreen and cover up.
It wasn’t until it became apparent later in the day that she was sunburnt that she confessed that she hadn’t applied any sunscreen. I could have throttled her, but one look at her lobster red face was enough to see that she was in pain. I felt like such a bad mother for not physically applying sunscreen to my daughter, but at 16 she is old enough to be responsible for this small task. We discussed the reasons why we have always insisted she covers up her skin in the sun and I may have thrown in a ‘I told you so’ once or twice, but her poor burnt face indicated that she now understood the implications of her actions.
The next morning she awoke with blisters on her face and chest. I felt sick with concern over her pain and suffering. As much as we have always shown through words and actions that you must use sunscreen, it took this harsh reality check for her to appreciate why we insist on the kids lathering themselves in sun block every day. She spent three days inside the boat without going in the sun at all. The flow on effect of her pain was that all the kids on board also saw the result of not wearing sunscreen and all became more vigilant with covering up.
The blisters have now subsided and her skin has peeled, leaving her with raw looking skin underneath. She is now liberally applying vitamin E oil to the area and has vowed to always wear sunscreen.
Sometimes the nagging words from a mother’s mouth fall on deaf ears and as painful as it is, the child actually experiencing the danger you are trying to protect them from, may be the most effective way for them to learn their lesson. I am by no means advocating letting your child get sunburnt but as someone who looks for the silver lining in life, I hope that my daughter’s experience will reinforce that I don’t nag her for fun and that I truly have her best interests at heart.
(Photo courtesy of stockimages, freedigitalphotos.net)