15 Surprisingly Practical Things I’ve Learned from My Kid

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Children are full of knowledge, and Tom Burns has learned some lessons.

1.  Self-flushing toilets are terrifying. It is a human being’s divine right to decide for themselves when they are “done.”

2.  Don’t burn a bridge if you’re still standing on the bridge. The first time my daughter was ever picked on at school, she told me the name of the kid who did it and I immediately let loose with a litany of very personal and specific insults that would perfectly take down (and possibly psychologically scar) that little brat. My daughter paused for a moment, sighed, and then said, “Dad, I’m not saying those. I still have to go to school with him for YEARS and YEARS.” And she was right.

3.  Placebos can work. Whenever my kid hurts herself, for some logic defying reason, the simple act of putting a band-aid on her wound—whether that wound is real or imagined–makes her feel better. (And band-aids with cartoon characters on them are somehow even more effective.) Thus is the power of mind over matter. So, the next time you get hurt, physically or emotionally, go get a hot fudge sundae, go to the zoo, or watch your favorite stupid movie. You will feel better.

4.  It’s crazy that all shampoo isn’t “No Tears” shampoo. Why do we waste that technology only on kids?

5.  Always bring Ziploc bags. My daughter got car sick on a road trip once and we happened to have a variety of Ziploc bags in the car and they saved the day. Now, whenever I pack for a trip, she asks me, “Did you pack Ziploc bags?”  They’re just really, really useful.

6.  Don’t assume that everyone knows what you’re talking about–I once spent five minutes chiding my daughter for crying wolf about one of her classmates until she finally interrupted me and said “But I don’t know how to cry wolf. What is that? Why are we talking about wolves?” (Other phrases I’ve had to explain to my kid: “Piece of cake,” “Beating a dead horse,” and “little from column A, little from column B.”)

7.  Seven a.m. on a school day is much, much earlier than seven a.m. on a Saturday. It’s just one of those mysteries of space and time.

8.  Adults really have no idea how much car seats suck. Imagine being strapped into a chair, inside a moving vehicle, without the ability to release yourself, while your parents sit in the front seat, gazing out the huge windshield, controlling the radio and the temperature, as they reach for whatever they want whenever they want, and completely control their own destinies. So, when on a long car trip, try to empathize with the kids in the back and make frequent stops, if possible.

9.  Writing is infinitely more fun with one of those clickable four-color pens.

10.  Don’t kid yourself: My daughter doesn’t like to eat pizza crusts. She always leaves them on her plate and then immediately reaches for the breadsticks. Once, I stopped her and argued that pizza crusts are essentially the same thing as breadsticks and she shot me the most withering look imaginable and said, “You KNOW pizza crusts aren’t as good as breadsticks.” And she was right.

11.  Even if you love them and know they’re normally delicious, jelly beans make a HORRIBLE topping for frozen yogurt.

12.  Familiar things can be scarier than you think. After reading a book about the solar system, my daughter told her mom, “Space is scary.” When my wife asked what she meant, she replied, “It’s freezing and there’s no air and there’s no sound and it’s like a vacuum pulling on your skin and it’s INFINITE, Mom. It never, ever ends.” And she was right. (And thanks to that–and the movie Gravity— I now think space is scary, too.)

13.  Yes, it creates more work, but raking and bagging leaves in autumn, without first putting them into a big pile and blasting through it, will always feel like an enormously missed opportunity.

14.  Even though I don’t personally remember asking my parents about my own mortality when I was a kid, that doesn’t mean the conversation never happened. Just a heads up—if you are a parent, eventually your kid IS going to ask you, “Am I going to die one day?” So having an answer already prepared is probably a good idea.

15.  Appreciate what you have: At 3 a.m. one night, my kid asked if she could come and sleep in our bed. After we told her “No,” she yelled, “I’m the only person in this family who has to sleep by themselves and I think that STINKS!” And she was right. That does stink. Granted, she still didn’t get her way, but, that night, I don’t know if my wife and I ever appreciated the simple joy of sharing a bed together more in our lives.

Image: Flickr/Yana Lyandres

About Tom Burns

Tom Burns is a husband, a dad, and a veteran of the educational publishing industry, living just outside of Detroit Rock City. He’s also been a writer and contributing editor for a number of web sites, including 8BitDad, and founded BuildingaLibrary.com - a website devoted to helping parents find the right books for their kids. You can find him on Twitter at @buildalibrary.


  1. And just in case she puts on a band aid and it doesn’t work, you can put a band aid on yourself and she’ll feel much better. Misery loves company from an early age.

  2. Great list Tom – some smiles, some shakes of the head in agreement. Wise daughter you have.

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