How do we put together “he who hesitates is lost” and “look before you leap”? Side by side the two sayings seem contradictory. But maybe “look before you leap” doesn’t mean don’t leap—ever. “Look before you leap” might mean be cool, take your time, think it over. Then go ahead and leap your head off.
Similarly, “he who hesitates is lost” doesn’t entail plunging head-first at the drop of a sombrero. “He who hesitates is lost” means, be ready to take advantage of the proper opportunity.
Speaking of marrying seemingly disparate maxims, what about, “if you tell a child a hundred times and he still doesn’t understand, it is not the child who is the slow learner.” The implication is to fix that which is indeed broken. Making the same suggestion to a loved one more than three times in a year is nagging. Screaming at a child to keep their eye on the ball or learn their multiplication tables betrays long term goals. But on the other hand, parents are told to “stay the course,” and “stay on message.” Don’t deviate if you know what you are doing is right.
Perhaps the resolution is to keep doing what you’re doing if you are critical and insightful first. What is the end game? What is likely to happen down the road, years from now, as your kids grow? Well, my child hates me, only calls twice a year, doesn’t want to visit, and I’ve never met my grandchildren but by golly, she sure knows her multiplication tables!
Words no parent ever spoke.
Which is not to imply that there is only one way to ensure your child knows what three times seven is—incessant screaming, punishing, and bullying. But it is also possible for your child to learn her multiplication tables without misery in the home.
“But if I don’t keep on her, she won’t do her homework at all. She’ll be on her phone and social media until the cows come home.”
I would not presume to speak for the whereabouts or timetables for your bovine neighbors but remind me if you would of how your daughter got access in the first place to a phone with more computing power than was used in the development of the atom bomb. My best guess is that your 10-year-old does not have economic resources. Did she earn money from her after school job? Did she get checks from generous relatives when she was graduated from high school? No! Weren’t you paying attention? The hypothetical child in our paragraph is ten years old! She has no money and won’t finish high school for another eight years.
You bought the device for her; you allow her to have access to both yucky images and competitive social sadness. There is no reason in the known universe for her to have a smart phone at that age.
So she can either do her homework or cuddle up on the coach with you and read something that wasn’t assigned. Last I heard Judy Blume, Madeline Engle, and Norton Juster were still in print. If the only way your child does homework is to be threatened or punished, something has already gone horribly wrong somewhere.
Which is what both seemingly disparate sayings are trying to teach us. “if you tell a child a hundred times and he still doesn’t understand, it is not the child who is the slow learner” and “stay the course” both suggest that we keep our eyes on the prize—a healthy, happy, loving relationship with our beloved children.
Because reconciling disparate sayings is one thing, but reconnecting with an adult child who resents the way they were parented is much more difficult and can result in a lifetime of loss and sadness. Seems like a high price to pay for getting homework done, wouldn’t you agree?